Jun 2015 27

Neuromuscular Technique

By: Dave Wheeler

Neuromuscular technique (NMT) is a technique used by sports massage therapists, physiotherapists and osteopaths to treat hypertonic (excessively toned, or tight, muscle).

It involves applying deep forced pressure to local areas of tense soft tissue.

I've already blogged about one type of NMT, called Trigger Point Therapy, but this is just one variant.


How NMT works

Areas of muscle that are overly tense are painful when they're stretched out, so that part of the muscle resists being lengthened out. The new "normal" for the hypertonic tissue becomes the shortened position, because this is comfortable.

The central nervous system makes sure that the signals being sent to the muscles keep it contracted in order to avoid pain. After all, one of the main functions of the central nervous system is to avoid pain in the body.

NMT disrupts this new pattern of comfort by causing pain!

The hypertonic muscle is subjected to painful pressure, so that the "comfortable" position now becomes painful. The central nervous system goes into overdrive trying to find ways to reduce the pain, and usually within 40-60 seconds will try relaxing (i.e. lengthening) the muscle to escape the pain.


Types of NMT

Trigger points can be treated with pressure using fingers, thumbs or elbows.

Other, larger areas of hypertonic tissue can be treated using pinch grips, for example:

  • The levator scapula muscle at the top of the shoulders / neck
  • The gastrocnemius muscle in the calf
  • The sternocleidomastoid at the front / side of the neck


The effects of NMT

Neuromuscular techniques normalise muscle tone, and can provide a great immediate relief from acute muscle soreness.

Where the problem is a result of poor posture, or occupational factors, NMT will only provide relief from the symptoms though, and it's important to address the long-term factors that caused the issue in the first place.

As ever, if you think I can help, give me a call.