Massage & Bodywork


Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 93 of 119

C h e c k o u t A B M P 's l a t e s t n e w s a n d b l o g p o s t s . Av a i l a b l e a t w w w. a b m p . c o m . 91 HOW DOES PET WORK? We've all seen how pain can reduce strength, flexibility, and endurance, as well as create a sense of fatigue. The brain is trying to do anything it can to avoid what it believes may cause injury. With a built-in adaptive mechanism, it can determine whether the body needs less or more protection at any given time. There is little doubt that traditional stretching routines produce an immediate increase in muscle extensibility due to the viscoelastic nature of muscle, but these effects quickly dissipate. The more permanent extensibility seen in PET is likely the result of two factors: the client's willingness to tolerate the discomfort associated with stretch, and muscle, ligament, and joint pain gating. According to the gate control theory, pain sensations are affected by descending modulatory influences from the brain, which can make the stretch either more or less sensitive to pain (Image 4). 1 When danger-signaling nociceptors are stimulated by excessive stretch, mechanical compression, and inflammation, the stimuli are fast-tracked to different parts of the brain. The brain then quickly interprets the information based on things such as prior therapeutic experiences, elevated mood, and confidence from positive expectations of stretch benefits. If performed correctly, afferent input from muscle and joint mechanoreceptors during a stretch can interfere with danger signals and inhibit an individual's perception of pain. For example, during a forward-bending hamstring stretch, the farther the person bends forward (stretch torque), the closer they can reach toward their toes. This results from mechanoreceptive pain gating in the hip and low-back joints, as well as an increased willingness to tolerate the discomfort associated with the stretch. The controlled manipulation of tissue and facilitated movement during PET offer added safety from overstretching into the painful barrier by providing tactile feedback that prevents the brain from guarding the area with protective muscle spasms. Several steps can be taken to further avoid exasperating a client's symptoms during PET. First, practitioners must develop subtle palpation skills to differentiate quality, range, and end- feel when assessing soft tissues such as ligaments, muscles, fascia, and particularly joint capsules. Mentally ask yourself the following questions: During end- range of motion, does this tissue have a boggy, leathery, spasmodic, or hard end-feel? When comparing side to side, are there areas of bind in one limb and greater ease of movement in the other? Efficiency of movement and improved function are the desired outcomes of any bodywork strategy. Tension, trauma, 3 The therapist's left hand braces the client's arm against their body and pins the restricted pectoralis minor muscle with their right elbow. The client's arm is taken to the first restrictive external rotation barrier. They are instructed to deeply inhale while the therapist's right elbow holds constant pressure. The client controls the degree of discomfort by exhaling (to decrease) or inhaling (to increase). Repeat until the protective guarding is reduced. 4 Gate control theory of pain. and even overly aggressive bodywork can result in excessive soreness and stiffness, which compromises fluid movement. Such stiffness typically results from nonoptimal neuromuscular firing due to altered brain maps, rather than passive stiffness based on adhesions, scar tissue, or degenerative changes. Remember that the body's physical and mental states interact bidirectionally, so we can decrease pain by moving better, and we can move better by decreasing pain. SUMMARY A PET desensitization approach is aimed at normalizing sensation by providing consistent stimulus to the affected area for short periods of time. The brain will respond to this sensory input by acclimating to the sensation, thereby gradually decreasing the body's pain response to the particular stimuli. Good clinical assessment and the appropriate application of PET, combined with self-care advice, can be successfully used in conjunction with other therapies to build an effective pain-management program. Notes 1. R. Melzack and P. D. Wall, "Pain Mechanisms: A New Theory," Science 150 (1965): 971–9. Erik Dalton is the executive director of the Freedom from Pain Institute. Educated in massage, osteopathy, and Rolfing, he has maintained a practice in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for more than three decades. For more information, visit

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Massage & Bodywork - JULY | AUGUST 2017