To complement the article “Neural Reset Therapy: Correct Muscular Tonus Dysfunction” in the November 2014 issue of MASSAGE Magazine. Summary: Neural Reset Therapy targets the body’s mechanoreceptors, with the goal of helping relieve pain, restore optimal muscle length, and increase range of motion.
Effleurage. Petrissage. Tapotement. Vibration. Everyone who has gone to massage school had to learn these applications, but you may not have been taught how these techniques cause changes in the body.
In truth, we work with a client’s nervous system much more than we work with muscles. Everything we do during massage—pushing, grabbing, pulling and tapping—is to gain the attention of the nervous system. Each stroke or technique is a stimulus. Providing the correct stimulus is the only way to get the desired response. How does the nervous system figure out what you are trying to tell the body to do, whether you want it to relax or get revved up? It’s all about mechanoreceptors.
The stimulus-response dance
Mechanoreceptors are located everywhere in the body. Detecting pressure, stretch, vibration and muscle length or tension, mechanoreceptors feel whatever the therapist is doing and send messages to the spinal cord integration centers and further up to the brain. The nervous system sends a signal back to the muscles to change their tonus. You hopefully feel the muscle release, and the client feels her discomfort lessen. However, it is possible for the nervous system to respond by tensing up, or armoring. Either way, the nervous system is responding to the stimulus you give it.
There is an easier way to help clients: Neural Reset Therapy®. Neural Reset Therapy comes out of a novel application of two laws of physiology discovered over a century ago: Sherrington’s Law of Reciprocal Inhibition and Pfluger’s Law of Symmetry. Neural Reset Therapy works directly with the nervous system to reset muscles to a more optimal length and tonus. Not only that, it affects muscle fibers that cannot be directly touched during massage therapy.
How Neural Reset Therapy helped me
During my travels across the U.S. to teach massage, and having practiced for several decades, my body has suffered, so I get regular bodywork done. Neural Reset Therapy developer Lawrence Woods is a therapist I have seen from time to time when driving through Indianapolis, Indiana. One day he totally changed my mindset about what it takes to get muscles to a more optimal state. He would palpate, or check the length of the target muscle. Instead of using his thumbs, the flat of his elbow, or massage tools, he would move my body in various ways and tap on my muscles.
A few seconds later, he would palpate again, and much to my surprise, my pain would be gone, and muscle length and range of motion much improved. He had not stretched anything, nor had he caused me pain during this reset. Sometimes he would do the reset from the opposite side of the body.
The Twin Reset
One unique feature of Neural Reset Therapy is its potential to reset muscles from the other side of the body, which can be useful in situations where massage is contraindicated. For example, Lawrence Woods told me about one of his clients, a 350-pound nurse who underwent a right knee replacement. For days after surgery, she was unable to do walking therapy because her muscles were locked around the knee joint. What is a massage therapist to do with unhealed incisions, bandaging and a very heavy client in a hospital bed?
Using the Twin Reset, Woods stimulated muscles in the lower left extremity in a distinct fashion and direction, which directed the nervous system to release the muscular tissues on the right side. This took all of one minute. The client was able to immediately start walking.
Neural Reset Therapy is a process of applying techniques via different methods and according to a set of rules, to cause a significant change in the nervous system. I encourage you to learn more about this approach.
Ralph R. Stephens, L.M.T., C.N.R.T. (www.ralphstephens.com), a 2008 inductee to the Massage Therapy Hall of Fame, is an instructor and therapist; authored the textbook, Therapeutic Chair Massage; and created 16 video programs on seated, sports and medical massage. He lives in Iowa, teaches seminars internationally and contributes to numerous publications.