Neuromuscular therapy is a form of soft tissue manipulation that aims to treat underlying causes of chronic pain involving the muscular and nervous systems. This medically-oriented form of massage addresses trigger points (tender muscles points), circulation, nerve compression, postural issues, lymph blockages and biomechanical problems that can be caused by repetitive movement injuries.
Neuromuscular therapy consists of alternating levels of concentrated pressure on the areas of muscle spasm. Muscles that are in spasm will be painful to the touch. The pain is caused by ischemic muscle tissue. Ischemia means the muscle is lacking proper blood flow, usually due to the muscle spasm. This in turn creates the following undesirable process:
- Because the muscle is not receiving enough blood, the muscle is also not receiving enough oxygen
- The lack of oxygen causes the muscle to produce lactic acid
- The lactic acid makes the muscle feel sore following physical activity.
After the muscle is relaxed through massage therapy, the lactic acid will be released from the muscle, and the muscle should start receiving enough blood and oxygen.
Neuromuscular therapy will feel painful at first, but the pressure of the massage should alleviate the muscle spasm. At this point, it is extremely important to communicate with the massage therapist regarding the pressure – whether the pressure is too much, too little, getting better, getting worse. The therapist should listen and respond accordingly. The massage therapy pressure should never be overly painful. In fact, most people describe the pressure as “good pain”
Following a Neuromuscular therapy massage, any soreness that presents itself should fade after twenty-four to thirty-six hours. The muscles that were tight should remain noticeably more relaxed for four to fourteen days.
It’s important to distinguish between Neuromuscular and Deep Tissue massage. Deep tissue massage releases chronic patterns of tension in the body through slow strokes and deep finger pressure on the contracted areas, either following or going across the grain of muscles, tendons and fascia. It’s also called “deep tissue” because it focuses on the deeper layers of muscle tissue.
Neuromuscular is a series of treatment protocols based on the practitioner’s skill, anatomy knowledge and precise palpatory application. Neuromuscular differs from regular, relaxation massage because it not only deals with the muscles, ligaments, and soft tissues of the body, but also with the nervous system. (Hence the term “neuromuscular,” which literally means “of, relating to or affecting both nerves and muscles.”)