Chronic pain affects about 100 million Americans and costs the United States an estimated $560-$635 billion annually. Given our country’s opioid epidemic, many people are looking for alternative ways to treat pain. Fortunately, neuromuscular therapy can offer a life-changing solution for those suffering from chronic pain.
The Problem of Pain
Chronic pain is defined as any pain lasting for at least 12 weeks (or 3 months). Considering how broad the definition is, there is a lot we don’t know about treating this type of pain.
Specifically, the most common areas to experience chronic pain are:
- Low back pain (27%)
- Headache/migraine (15%)
- Neck pain (15%)
- Facial pain (4%)
While it has already been established that massage therapy can help ease chronic pain conditions, such as fibromyalgia and arthritis, here’s what you need to know about neuromuscular therapy and pain management.
What is Neuromuscular Therapy?
Developed in Europe during the 1930s, neuromuscular therapy (NMT) was founded on “a solid understanding of human anatomy and physiology, and rooted in sound physiological principles” (source). Unlike other forms of massage therapy, NMT deals with the nervous system (in addition to muscles, soft tissues and ligaments), so practitioners have a greater understanding of how and where to target pressure based on patient’s specific pain points.
Specifically, NMT “consists of alternating levels of concentrated pressure on the areas of muscle spasm” (source). This is typically applied with the practitioner’s fingers, knuckles or elbow.
How is Neuromuscular Therapy Different from Massage Therapy?
Because of the vast knowledge of human physiology required, NMT is a modality that requires practitioners to earn a certification. Neuromuscular massages are not just for relaxation, but specifically for relieving pain. Oftentimes, the first thing a NMT practitioner will ask you about is your posture, exercise levels or other daily activities, since it can reveal a lot about where your pain is stemming from.
The biggest difference between NMT and other massage services (like deep tissue massage) is the release. While NMT can be a deep tissue massage, it goes further by releasing “trigger points,” which involves static pressure, unlike deep tissue massages, that simply glide over the trigger points.
How Can Neuromuscular Therapy Help Alleviate Chronic Pain?
Because NMT practitioners focus on the patient’s specific pain points, this type of massage can better help relieve pain in chronic pain sufferers.
Specifically, NMT addresses five main sources of pain:
Ischemia is a lack of blood flow to the muscles, which results in sensitive and weak muscles.
2. Trigger Points
Often referred to as “knots” in your muscles, trigger points cause pain—both locally and in other parts of the body (known as referral pain) when compressed.
3. Nerve Entrapment/Compression
Nerve compression is exactly what it sounds like—a nerve that is compressed by muscle, bone, cartilage or soft tissue. This causes pain that can radiate throughout the body.
4. Postural Distortion
Postural distortion is a muscle imbalance that can cause your body to pull itself out of alignment. It has become so popular with the ubiquity of technology that there is now a condition called “text neck.“
5. Biomedical Dysfunction
A condition where repeated improper movement patterns of the bones and muscles, biomedical dysfunction leads to imbalanced muscles that can cause pain and discomfort.
In addition, NMT therapists will also examine perpetuating factors, such as diet, hydration, stress levels and breathing patterns to work with each client on assessing and discovering a variety of factors contributing to their pain, and how the client and practitioner can work together to best manage the pain.
If you are suffering from chronic pain, schedule an appointment with one of our neuromuscular therapy-certified practitioners by calling (303) 573-7484!