Massage & Bodywork

SEPTEMBER | OCTOBER 2017

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96 m a s s a g e & b o d y w o r k s e p t e m b e r / o c t o b e r 2 0 1 7 technique MYOFASCIAL TECHNIQUES We move by contracting. Muscles fire, causing them to tighten, shorten, and pull. With repetition and habituation, muscles fire quicker, shorten more, and pull harder. When strength or stability are needed, this rapidity, tightening, and pulling are all very good things. But muscles that get accustomed to firing quickly or strongly can lose refinement and finesse. Powerful movements become jerky and less precise, as muscles "forget" they don't have to bring all their motor units online at once. And when it's time for rest or relaxation, muscles accustomed to fast contraction, strong pulling, and sustained tightening sometimes forget how to simply let go. That's where hands-on work can help. By leveraging the nervous system's built- in regulatory and control systems, skilled manual therapy can "remind" muscles to lower their resting tone when they aren't working; to let go and relax. And using the same systems, hands-on work can also help muscles learn refined, incremental, and nuanced possibilities for action, instead of lurching into unnecessarily large, all-or- nothing contractions with every movement. Working with the Golgi Tendon Organs By Til Luchau Found in dense connective tissues throughout the body, Golgi tendon organs (GTOs) are concentrated around the myotendinous junctions, where the fascial wrappings of muscle cells (red) blend with the collagen fibers of tendons (tan), shown here at 40x magnification. Image copyright Lutz Slomianka, used by permission. 1 LEVERAGING THE GOLGI TENDON ORGAN EFFECTS One of these built-in systems for moving with refinement, relaxation, and efficiency is the Golgi-based stretch reflexes. Golgi mechanoreceptors are common in many of the body's dense connective tissues, such as joint capsules, ligaments (where they are known as Golgi end organs), and Golgi tendon organs (GTOs), which are concentrated around the myotendinous junctions, where muscle cells end and tendons begin (Image 1). 1 Intimately involved in tension perception, protective reflexes, and movement coordination, with the right kinds of mechanical stimuli, GTOs can lower the firing rate (i.e., relax) of their associated muscles (Image 2). Interestingly, they can also facilitate (increase the firing rate, or excite) a muscle's synergists and antagonists, and thereby play a key role in de-emphasizing prime- mover dominance and increasing global movement coordination and refinement. 2 Many types of manual and movement therapies, including structural integration, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, Hatha yoga, and others, use GTO responses (along with other kinds of mechanoreceptors) to explain their effects. Though such theories about the GTOs' manual therapy applications were first proposed over 30 years ago, 3 subsequent research (detailed by authors and researchers such as Robert Schleip 4 ) has clarified several conditional factors relevant to hands-on work. A Golgi response is more likely with sustained and relatively firm local pressure on a muscle's fascial connections, in a direction oblique or perpendicular to the muscle's axis of pull, and in combination with active client movement. In our Advanced Myofascial Techniques workshops and video courses, we use these three principles to take advantage of the Golgi effects in several situations. Examples include when working with the large, strong, and always-on hip abductors in the Push Broom "A" Technique ("Working with Hip Mobility," Massage & Bodywork, March/April 2012, page 114); when working with the sensitive structures of the jaw in the Posterior Digastric Technique ("The Temporomandibular Joint, Part II," Massage & Bodywork, September/October 2009, page 120), and for reeducation

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