Positional Release Technique
Imagine a muscle, or muscles, in a painful condition. Shortened, perhaps with trigger points, perhaps in some kind of protective spasm. The natural first instinct of both the patient and practitioner is that if a muscle has become shorter then it should be lengthened towards its original length. So, the patient might attempt to self-stretch or the Chiropractor (or other health care provider) might try to lengthen the short muscle.
This could be with, for example, a Muscle Energy Technique (MET) or perhaps with an Active Release Technique (ART). However, if the patient is already in severe pain, perhaps with an acute injury, then such active lengthening of a short, perhaps in spasm, muscle, may just make the patient’s pain worse. Also, the muscle may respond by contacting even more – the opposite of the intended result!
These are the type of circumstances where Positional Release Technique (PRT) may be useful. So, here, in PRT, the Chiropractor would rearrange the patient’s body so the short muscle was positioned even shorter. Ideally, this rearrangement would significantly reduce the pain the patient was experiencing.
In this reduced pain position, additionally, the Chiropractor might even use his own hands to compress the shorter muscle even shorter. This positioning and compressing may be held for, say, ninety seconds. This shortening and compressing may allow the nervous system to “re-set” so as the patient is brought out of the shortened and compressed position some of the original pain and spasm may now be reduced. If the Chiropractor now attempts to gently lengthen the previous shortened muscle, it may now be possible.
How PRT works is open to conjecture. One could speculate that the nervous system would only choose to shorten or put a muscle into spasm to protect itself. Therefore, if a muscle is prematurely stretched or otherwise lengthened, this would increase the threat the nervous system was experiencing. And so a natural response would be for the nervous system to kick back and try and shorten the muscle further or spasm it more.
So, PRT is going with what the body wants to do. The nervous system shows it wants the muscle shorter, so the Chiropractor makes the muscle even shorter and compresses it further short. Perhaps this serves to reassure the nervous system that a joint or a disc is no longer under threat. This creates a reflexive response of relaxation which allows tissues finally to lengthen.
So, in summary, PRT is an “indirect” method which can be applied when the circumstances of the case suggest that a direct approach will be unsuccessful. ART can be seen as more “direct” method where the shortened muscle is directly lengthened. PRT is “indirect” in that the muscle is taken shorter first so that then it can be taken longer. Let’s now look at the history of PRT.
Positional Release Technique originated with the clinical innovations of Lawrence Jones, starting in the 1950s. Jones originally called his approach “Spontaneous Release by Positioning” but eventually settled on the name “Strain / Counterstrain” (SCS) and finally published his approach in 1981.
Jones observed that a position of comfort or ease is usually an exaggeration of whatever adaptive distortion patterns were present. The downside of Jones approach was that it became very formulaic with over 200 “tender points” being chartered for the practitioner to monitor. Over time, less “cook-book” methods have been evolved by (inter alia) George Goodheart DC (the developer of Applied Kinesiology), Kerry D’Ambrgio PT, George Roth DC and Leon Chaitow DO.
Leon Chaitow has been the modern synthesiser, developer and professional advocate of PRT. Chiropractor Andrew Hunter DC was fortunate enough to be able to study with Leon Chaitow while Chaitow was senior lecturer at the University of Westminster.
To be able to experience Positional Release Technique with Andrew Hunter at one of his three London clinics (at Blackheath, Canary Wharf or City) please call him on 07855 916 602.