Don’t Be Owned By Pain
Let me start off by saying, pain does not have to own you. You do not have to be defined by the constant soreness, intense pain, and continuous stiffness you are experiencing on a daily basis. It is possible to take your power back and not have to live the rest of your life with persistent discomforts. And yes! you can achieve this freedom without medication. Integrated Positional Therapy is your answer. This modality is a non-invasive technique with long term solutions. It is the method of being able to “communicate” to muscle groups in their language and on a deeper level.
The misconception when it comes to relieving sore muscles and being stiff is that either we have to dig really deep into the muscles until it is even more painful, or we need to keep stretching the muscles constantly. For those who have tried these, have you noticed it didn’t make that much of a difference, or that it did for a while but then, there’s your ole friend. It’s back again. That’s because you are using the wrong language. In actuality, the message we are looking to send to painful, sore and stiff muscles is to relax. When we ask the muscles to relax, we are also asking them to be in their restful or neutral state. Don’t get me wrong, deep pressure (especially in a massage) can feel wonderful and can have it’s benefits when it is appropriate. However, in most chronic or acute situations, it may not always be the answer. Going too deep in muscles could actually make them “think” they are being traumatized, and this will send them into protective mode by tensing up more. Some stretching can have it’s benefits as well, however, when that is all that’s being done the muscles “think” they are getting the message of needing to be active. This can bring negative fatigue and weakness to the muscles.
Integrated Positional Therapy is a well developed therapeutic modality that is derived from Neuromuscular Therapy. The foundation of the practice is based on the in depth understanding around how muscle groups work and the influence they have on one another, the skeletal system and attachments (i.e. tendons and ligaments) throughout the whole body. What has been found through this thorough study is that in order to remind the muscles of their natural state of rest and relaxation, it is key to put them in that state through positioning and teaching clients how to adjust everyday habits that maintains innate body alignment without stress. Positional Therapy is broken down into two main methods: Muscle Energy Technique (MET) and Strain Counter-Strain Technique (SCS).
How Positional Therapy Works
The mentality behind PT is that if the foundation of the body is balanced, than everything else [throughout the body] falls in line. To get a better idea of what this means, think about the foundation of a building. If the foundation and structure is strong, the building will stand for a good long time. Strength, in this matter, is defined in physics terms. When key structures are stacked, one on top of the other, and aligned, then that structure is more powerful and functional. Let’s just say the human body is a well engineered marvel.
So in a session, the practitioner will start at the foundation, which are the hips and pelvis area. Are you one of those people who were told by a doctor that one of your legs is longer than the other? Well, what is really going on has less to do with your legs length from one another, and more to do with the deeper muscles around and within the pelvis and hip areas being short and tight. Also when this area is out of balance it can cause issues in other areas in addition to one leg being shorter than the other. It can cause issues and pain in the knees, low back, hips, and even in the upper back, shoulder girdle and neck. Once the foundation of the body has been assessed and balanced, focus goes to the client’s chief complaint (whatever that may be). Working on the foundation first ensures that whatever work that is done anywhere else and that may be more chronic or acute will remain balanced and stay relieved from pain.
As mentioned before, techniques that are used to achieve pain free state of being are Muscle Energy Technique (MET) and Strain Counter-Strain Technique (SCS). SCS is the primary technique to establish that relaxation conversation to the muscles. It’s process is to position the body in a state of comfort for a period of about 60 seconds. This is a state of shortening the muscle group by bringing the two end points towards one another through either (again) positioning or by squeezing the set of muscles together. This process guides the muscle to reset and reduce spasm. The beautiful part of this process of the session is, as a client, the only thing you have to do is totally relax and do nothing as pain is eased out of your body. Just be mindful that minor soreness may occur after SCS as a part of the muscles relearning how to be in their natural state. This is normal and will not last very long.
Here are some simple things you can do for common muscle issues
Slacking the Muscles in the Upper Back
Upper Back and shoulder pains and discomfort can be dealt with by using Strain Counter-Strain techniques. The goal is to shorten the rhomboid
muscles around the shoulder blades, while at the same time opening up the pectoralis muscles (that tend to be short and tight as a result from hunching over.)
Awareness: make sure your elbows are not locked and tight while doing this. If you are not able to clasp your fingers together, then you can use a towel. Clasping or holding a towel will allow you to relax in the holding.
Hold this position for about 60 to 90 seconds as you breath deep and soften.
Slacking the Muscles in the Neck
For neck soreness and tightness, use SCS to shorten the muscles in the neck. For the sternocleidomastoid, roll head slightly forward.
MET does use some stretches, but they are very mild and should be painless as they are being done. It is a gentle and non-invasive technique that establishes optimal range of motion and function. This technique is great for joint issues by addressing the surrounding muscles that are compromised by shortening and/or spasms. I like to describe MET as, when muscles are being “stubborn” and may not respond to SCS, MET is used to fatigue the muscle. MET uses isometric contraction (resistance). This can be done by gently pressing (for example) your head against equal pressure of your hand to release muscles tightness in the neck (shown…). This movement is held between 5 to 8 seconds, three times in a row. It is essential that the breath is coordinated with the flow. With each exhale there is a progressive release that happens. In a therapeutic session with a therapist, after each hold and isometric contraction the therapist will increase the gentle stretch (while checking in with the client to maintain no pain) to promote a wider range of motion to the area.
Neck Stiffness and Soreness
When the neck in stubborn and will not release, using MET will fatigue the muscle groups and let go. This technique creates slight tension through resistance. It is very beneficial to use the breath with this technique. As you create tension hold the inhale in for 5 counts. As you relax, exhale.
Low Back Soreness & Tightness
For low back pain and stiffness, gently stretching out the quadratus muscles will help to release the low back. The technique shown here can be done sitting in a chair or lying down if your balance is not good.
You can also gently press your foot into your hands to create resistance. This can be gentle.
And additional step would be to strengthen the core as a way to support the back. This can be done through yoga or a fitness routine.
In a Therapeutic Session
To ensure the therapist will provide ultimate benefits, the process of a session begins with the therapist getting a client’s history. Having a thorough understanding of the client’s medical history, the therapist can consider various and important elements. Even if the person does not come in with those elements as the chief complaint, they sometimes can play a role no matter how minor. It is also key to get an idea of a client’s everyday habits, activities (or lack of activity), how he or she deal with life stressors, any accidents, surgeries, or other medical issues that may have affected the body. These considerations can have an impact on postural, structural, and range of motions of the body that can lead up to chronic and / or acute challenges.
Next is the treatment itself. The process of observation for treatment actually starts when the therapist walks the client to the treatment. The therapist is noticing the way the client stands (i.e. does one shoulder sit higher than the other or does the person lean to one side). They will notice the way the person walks (i.e. does he or she have a limp while walking? Does the person not swing their arms when they walk? etc.) The initial process is for the therapist to do a hip alignment observation through leg and feet positioning. Remember when I mentioned about the one leg longer than the other scenario? By the therapist doing this as a part of the treatment routine let’s them know which muscles are short (or long) and tight in the hip girdle. Once the therapist has a good idea about what is going on with the person’s body, physically and pair it with the client history and the reason the person came in, then treatment using SCS and MET are incorporated.
After treatment (which on it’s own can be a long lasting resolution), the therapist will give the client a treatment plan that will assist with adopting new habits or tools to have if the issue comes up again. Extended treatment plan includes increasing a healthy amount of water intake, heat treatment, lumbar support, ergonomics, and certain yoga postures. The therapist does this through a wellness plan. We we go over examples of some of those tools here. Even after a typical massage, I give this wellness plan to clients I work on as an extended up keep of the massage they received. Even if you have not had a session, these routines can be very beneficial.
The benefits of Integrated Positional Therapy are
Release and lengthen contracted and tight muscles
Strengthen weakened muscles
Increase range of motion in joints
Normalize fascial tension
Increase circulation of oxygenated and nutrient enriched blood
Addresses chronic and acute issues
Challenges that can be addressed with Positional Therapy
Upper traps, levator scapula & neck muscle pain and tightness
Upper back, shoulder girdle (rhomboids) stress, soreness, and tightness
|Joint Limitations||Low Back Tightness and Pain||Psoas|
|Mid Back Soreness||Hip Flexior Limitation and Pain||Adductor Muscles|
|Sciatica||IT Band Tightness||General Stiffness|
|Tight Quads||Tight Hamstrings||Muscle Spasms|
|Calve Spasms and Tightness||Tennis Elbow||Golf Elbow|
|Carpal Tunnel||Wrist Issues||Fore Arm Tightness|
|Texting Thumbs||Plantar Fascities||Rotator Cuff|
A Bit of Background of Integrated Positional Therapist
Lee Albert, NMT is a national presenter and highly popular Neuromuscular Therapist and yoga instructor at the world renowned Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Lenox, MA. Dedicated to helping people help themselves, Lee created, practices and teaches Integrated Positional Therapy (IPT), -protocols to reduce and often eliminate chronic pain. He is the author of “Yoga for Pain Relief: A New Approach to an Ancient Practice” (2017 release)and “Live Pain Free without Drugs or Surgery.”
Lee is trained in neuromuscular therapy, orthopedic massage,
positional therapy, yoga therapy and myofascial release and
has conducted seminars with thousands of people from all over
the world. People from every walk of life have learned from
Lee how to live a pain free life.
Books by Lee Albert on Integrated Positional Therapy
Note: This article was written by Carla Moodie, LMT. The article about Integrated Positional Therapy is inspired by the work as presented and trained by Lee Albert, NMT. References used for this article are credited to the work of Lee Albert. Carla was trained by Lee in this modality.
Lee has been offering training in Integrated Positional Therapy for several years now. There are highly qualified therapist around the country who were trained by Lee. Click here to if there is one in your area.
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Feature and instructional photos by Intuitive Spirit Healing Arts
Photo Credit: Copyright: Eraxion / 123RF Stock Photo