The St. John Method of Neuromuscular Therapy (NMT) was developed and implemented by Paul St. John, a licensed massage therapist, and a certified integrative neurosomatic therapist. Prior to those achievements, Paul was certified in radiological technology, and was a medic in the Green Berets in Vietnam, where he learned to appreciate the knowledge and skills of some of the alternative health-care therapists in the Orient. After experiencing three very serious injuries, the last of which leaving him with chronic debilitating pain, Paul went through four years of various conventional treatments, and found no permanent relief from his pain. This prompted him to begin researching and studying pain mechanisms, the nervous system, the musculo-skeletal system, and the neurological laws that govern the workings of the human body. One thing lead to another, and in 1978, Paul began to teach his method of neuromuscular therapy. (With Paul being a true pioneer of neuromuscular therapy, it’s no surprise that most, if not all other methods of neuromuscular therapy, are based on his work.)
NMT is a comprehensive, integrative treatment approach to pain relief that examines and addresses the following five principles:
Postural Distortion – Imbalances in muscle tone that result in the movement of the body off of the coronal, mid-sagittal and horizontal planes
Biomechanical Dysfunction – Imbalances in the musculo-skeletal system that result in faulty movement patterns
Trigger Point Activity – Trigger points are areas of low neurological activity that, when stimulated or stressed, become areas of high neurological activity with referred sensations to other parts of the body
Nerve Compression/Entrapment – Pressure on a nerve by an osseous (bony) or cartilaginous structure/pressure on a nerve by soft tissue
Ischemia – Lack of ample blood supply to the tissues
After a thorough analysis is performed, postural distortions and biomechanical dysfunctions are identified, and an appropriate treatment program is then put into effect. During the treatment sessions, other existing components of these five principles will be discovered and will be properly addressed as well.
NMT treatment programs follow five specific stages of rehabilitation:
Eliminate Spasms and Hypercontractions in the Muscle Tissue (NMT)
Restore Proper Flexibility to the Muscle Tissue (Stretching Exercises)
Restore Proper Biomechanics to the Musculo-Skeletal System (Movement Therapy)
Rebuild the Strength of the Muscle Tissue (Strengthening Exercises)
Rebuild the Endurance of the Muscle Tissue (Conditioning Exercises)
It is important to understand that the rehabilitation of the tissues should follow this particular order of treatment to ensure the quickest possible recovery without any future setbacks. If this order is not followed, experience tells us that setbacks will usually occur. For example, if someone attempts weight training before all of the spasms and hypercontractions have been properly eliminated from the muscle tissue, the result will most likely be that the remaining spasms and hypercontractions in the muscle tissue will progressively worsen and the old pain patterns will recur.
NMT seems to fill a void left by traditional health-care practices because it evaluates and treats somatic pain that is being caused by soft tissue. According to recent research, it is estimated that approximately 90% of pain symptoms are considered to be idiopathic, meaning that there is no known cause. The reason for this, most likely, is that a proper investigation into the soft tissues is not being performed. NMT is not only a means to perform this kind of investigation, but it’s also a means to thoroughly treat these hidden sources of pain.
NMT is based on the many neurological laws that explain how the musculo-skeletal system responds to irritations in the nervous system. As the irritations intensify, the musculo-skeletal system becomes more and more dysfunctional and any present symptoms (including pain) will gradually get worse. Restoring the musculo-skeletal system back to its healthy state will enhance nervous system functioning, and in turn, alleviate symptoms of pain and improve any physiological (functional) disorders that may also be occurring.
One of the neurological laws is Wolff’s law, which simply states that “form follows function and function follows form”. Therefore, improper functioning of the body will create distortions in the form (musculo-skeletal system) of the body, and vice versa. For example, a digestive disorder can cause a slouchy posture and faulty gait (upright movement). On the other hand, a trigger point in a particular neck muscle (form) can fire into the ear area and possibly cause hearing or balance problems. Thus, when it comes down to alleviating symptoms and improving overall health and well-being, one can clearly see the importance of having a healthy musculo-skeletal system, as well as, healthy functioning.