What is Neuromuscular Therapy?

The St. John Method of NMT is a comprehensive program of soft tissue manipulation techniques that balance the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord and nerves) with the structure and form of the musculoskeletal system (skeleton and muscles of the body). The St. John Method of NMT is based on neurological laws that explain how the central nervous system maintains homeostatic balance. Accordingly, these same laws dictate how the central nervous system initiates pain responses.
One law that applies, Arndt's Law, represents how pain originates in the body. Simply stated, it says that different levels of stimuli to the nerves affect physiological activities. At homeostasis (balance) nerves transmit impulses very slowly. Injury, trauma, postural distortion, or stress cause nerves to speed up their transmissions, inhibiting equilibrium and making the body vulnerable to pain and dysfunction. It is necessary to stabilize low levels of neurological activity to maintain homeostasis and thus overall health.
The St. John Method of Neuromuscular Therapy considers five principles that cause pain. They are:
* Ischemia, a lack of blood supply to the soft tissues, which causes them to be very sensitive to touch. Typically, if less than 5 to 10 pounds of pressure causes tenderness, the tissues are in an ischemic state. This is one of the first conditions a neuromuscular therapist analyzes.
* Trigger points, which occur when nerves fire impulses at a rapid speed into an area of the body other than that which has been traumatized. Because of trigger points, the cause of serious pain may often be far removed from the actual site of the pain. This, in turn, inhibits proper blood flow, which causes ischemia and often leads to more pain and discomfort.
* Nerve compression or entrapment, which is pressure on a nerve by bone, cartilage or soft tissue. The role of the soft tissues in nerve compression is vital. Realigning vertebrae without treating associated soft tissue frequently treats the symptom and not the cause. Spinal nerves are subject to intrusion when any of the vertebrae are dislocated or spinal disks herniated. Treating the surrounding soft tissues that cause or maintain the dislocation greatly enhances rehabilitation and alleviation of pain. Whiplash often causes nerve entrapment by the soft tissues. The nervous system initiates tightening of the muscles to stop bleeding in the tissues caused by violent snapping of the neck backward and forward. This tightening results in muscular spasm. After bleeding stops, the spastic response, initially a curative one, will continue if intervention is not made. This muscular spasm causes pressure on nerves and creates its own painful condition. Nerve entrapment is the most common type of pain and always causes ischemia. Ignored, it can produce associated trigger points.
* Postural distortion, an imbalance of the muscular system resulting from movement of the body off the coronal, midsagittal and horizontal planes. Gravitational force (33.5 lb. per square inch) is constantly pulling the body toward Earth. If there is an imbalance in the structural system, gravity causes the body to compensate in an effort to retain balance. Trauma, gravitational pressure or psychological patterning causes the soft tissues to assume a weight-bearing function and thus become thicker, denser and harder. Muscle contraction, body distortion and pain are the results of compensations the body makes in order to maintain structural homeostasis. By determining why the compensations have occurred, the distorted patterns can be eliminated, proper posture restored, and associated pain diminished or eliminated in most cases. Other body distortions are caused by muscles contracting and shortening while others lengthen in an effort to hold the body upright as a result of "righting reflexes." These reflexes respond to messages from the inner ear, eyes, muscles or skin to bring the body into equilibrium.
* Biomechanical dysfunction is an imbalance of the musculoskeletal system resulting in faulty movement patterns. Repetitive strain of certain soft tissues result in adapted movement patterns that become muscular "habits" and must be reeducated.

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