Neuromuscular therapy (NMT) is a highly-specialized form of manual massage therapy that is extremely helpful in correcting reoccurring pain and dysfunction. NMT techniques are also used for acute injuries and post-surgery.

The goal of the NMT session(s) is to find the impaired muscles and assist in correcting the dysfunction by working on the muscle-nerve connection, fascial-connective tissue, adhesions (knots), along with the trigger points, or sensitive areas in the belly of the muscle, that are causing discomfort.

Neuromuscular therapy is a scientific, time-tested, medically oriented form of massage. NMT therapists are educated in precise treatment protocols to help correct the impairment.

Although the massage is highly technical, the recipient can relax and should feel some relief after just one session.

The therapist addresses the whole problem zone – everything that innervates the area of the body that is causing discomfort. Neuromuscular therapy is rarely full body, although the therapist might work in other places to give nerves in the treated region a chance to register the changes produced in the muscles, muscle-nerve connections, and/or joints. 

Sessions are planned to release tension from the top down, or light to deep into the muscle/functional site. If one’s pain threshold is breached, the response to pain in the muscle, and in the area being treated, is counterproductive to releasing the dysfunction in the tissues. Pressure varies depending on the tissue’s response.

NMT therapists have highly developed palpation skills and increase or decrease pressure as the tissue allows.

Neuromuscular therapy is found in chiropractic, osteopathic, and ayurvedic medicine and dates back as far as the 1930s, when two chiropractors, Dr. Stanley Lief and Dr. Boris Chaitow, in Europe developed Ayurvedic manual therapy principles.

Then, in America, in the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s, Dr. Janet Travell was making ‘Trigger point therapy” a household phrase, especially when she became the first female personal physician to President John F. Kennedy, treating him with trigger point injections.

Dr. Travell teamed up with Dr. David Simons to publish the first of two trigger point textbooks in 1983. Dr. Raymond Nimmo, a chiropractor, came across Dr. Travell’s beginning publications and shared her thought processes about soft tissue points being problematic to healing.

Finally, in the 1970s, Paul St. John, a student of Dr. Nimmo, named the modality “St. John Neuromuscular Therapy.” Licensed Massage Therapist Judith DeLany trained and taught under the St. John method of Neuromuscular Therapy until developing her own protocol and seminar program called Neuromuscular Therapy the American Version. Both European and American models shared theoretical bases but applied different manual techniques.

A joint research venture in 1996, between DeLany and Chaitow’s nephew, Dr. Leon Chaitow, led to the publication of “Modern Neuromuscular Techniques.”

To this day, there is continued research in the field of neuromuscular therapy, which will help therapists develop new protocols and adjust their current strategies to reduce chronic pain and physical dysfunctions in our bodies.

Liana Marconyak of Inner Peace Massage and Spa holds advanced certifications in NMT neuromuscular therapy and prenatal massage.