To complement the MASSAGE Magazine article, “Stop Involuntary Muscle Contraction with Structural Relief Therapy,” by Taya Countryman, in the October 2011 issue. Article summary: This pain-relieving approach is rooted in two osteopathic techniques: muscle energy technique and positional release therapy.

by Taya Countryman

Most massage schools teach that tight muscles occur from stress, muscle guarding or muscle weakness. You learn Swedish, deep tissue or trigger-point therapy to painfully force tight muscles into submission. All variations of these techniques are based on pressure that stretches the tissue.

If stretching muscles and fascia was the only treatment needed, clients would improve in just a few treatments. But when clients come back in pain, their muscles are tight in the same areas and have little improvement in range of motion, they need something different.

Andrew Taylor Still, the father of osteopathy, saw survivors of the Civil War. He developed a high thrust technique to relieve clients’ conditions. In the 20th century, osteopaths began to look at the relationship of soft tissue and joint dysfunction. This led Fred Mitchell Sr. to developed the muscle energy technique and Laurence H. Jones to develop strain-counterstrain, or positional release therapy.

For my chronic and complex clients, I needed a gentle way to reprogram involuntary muscle contraction. I used the principles of muscle energy technique and positional release therapy to develop Structural Relief Therapy.

During the epidemic of polio in 1894, physical therapy developed muscle testing to evaluate muscle weakness. They thought exercise would strengthen these muscles, but outcomes were limited because of neurological damage. Muscle testing lead to a precept that muscle weakness was the underlying problem for all soft-tissue conditions. When muscles test weak, and exercise doesn’t increase strength or decrease pain, it is time to challenge this accepted treatment model.

Involuntarily muscle contraction causes muscles to test weak. Reprogram this with Structural Relief Therapy increases range of motion and normal activities makes the muscles test stronger.

If you have a passion to decrease the pain and other conditions of your clients, come to a Structural Relief Therapy ( class and get a tool to help you look and feel with new eyes.

About Structural Relief Therapy classes:

  • Classes can be taken in any order.
  • There are three one-day classes: Structural Relief Therapy for the Shoulder, Arm and Hand; Structural Relief Therapy for the Neck; and Structural Relief Therapy for the Torso.
  • There are three two-day classes: Structural Relief Therapy for the Low Back and Pelvis; Structural Relief Therapy for the Hip Upper Leg and Knee; and Structural Relief Therapy for the Lower Leg and Foot

Each day earns seven continuing education hours, because our brains can only absorb so much new information. At your first class, you will receive our comprehensive Structural Relief Therapy manual with illustrations and color photos. You will be the therapist and the client so you can experience Structural Relief Therapy. The class is 70-percent hands on with students fully clothed. No matter what your past training, you will find Structural Relief Therapy easy to learn. We are also creating videos to augment the classes.

I know you want practical, hands-on classes that are easy to follow and fun. From the very first class, you will have a new perspective of the body and how it is trying to communicate. You will learn practical assessment skills for treatment strategies and the locations and positions for the Structural Relief Therapy tender points.

To be certified in Structural Relief Therapy ,you must attend each class twice (repeating a Structural Relief Therapy Class costs just $25). Next, you will give me or a Structural Relief Therapy Team member a session as a practical examination. It is more important to demonstrate Structural Relief Therapy on the body to decrease conditions and increase range of motion than complete a written exam. After being certified, you can become part of our Structural Relief Therapy Team and assist at classes and conventions. We also have a Structural Relief Therapy teaching track.

I am committed to sharing my years of experience with my students by e-mail and I do respond to questions. Reach me via e-mail at