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A B M P m e m b e r s e a r n F R E E C E a t w w w. a b m p . c o m / c e b y r e a d i n g M a s s a g e & B o d y w o r k m a g a z i n e 89 specialized sensory receptors called mechanoreceptors are triggered. Their job is to alert the spinal cord of possible mechanical malfunction. The spinal cord reacts by recruiting head and neck righting reflexes that are often able to restore temporary gravitational balance by pulling the head and spine back into vertical alignment. STAGE 2: CHRONIC SYSTEMIC INFLAMMATION The client's neck crick symptoms escalate as prolonged stiffness increases joint compression, resulting in disc compression, articular cartilage degradation, and possible nerve root impingement. Although inflammation is a natural and vital part of the injury repair process, prolonged exposure irritates surrounding soft tissues and hyperexcites chemical receptors called chemoreceptors. Together, the upregulated chemical and mechanical receptors bombard the spinal cord with warnings of excessive chemical and mechanical duress. STAGE 3: BRAIN ALERTED TO POSSIBLE TISSUE DAMAGE In this progression, the combined mechanoreceptive and chemoreceptive stimuli become too much for the spinal cord reflexes to handle. Specialized danger- signaling receptors called nociceptors are recruited to fast-track information to the brain, warning of the possibility of tissue damage. The brain quickly interprets the nociceptive information—based on factors such as prior experiences, expectations, and mood—and passes that assessment along in several ways. The brain may choose to ignore the situation for the time being, lock up the area with protective muscle guarding, or trigger a pain response to persuade the person to do something about it. If the individual continues with their old patterns of overuse and abuse, the neck and shoulders may become sensitized to the pain. Prolonged exposure to the painful neck crick can trigger a host of unwanted symptoms, including sympathetic spasm in neighboring tissues. MAT therapists apply graded exposure stretches, nerve mobilization, and manual tractioning techniques (Images 3, 4, and 5) in a controlled, comfortable manner to convince the brain that it is now safe to move stiff necks in directions that were once locked up. These MAT techniques are fantastic for clients suffering sensory motor amnesia, where habitual inefficient movement patterns have caused the brain to forget how to completely relax certain parts of the body, such as the neck and shoulders. By progressively introducing stretch to areas that have been problematic in the past, the nervous system begins associating the new movement with safety instead of pain. The subsequent reduction in pain, increased efficiency of movement, and improved function are the desired outcomes of any bodywork strategy. 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 The therapist's fingers and thumb secure each vertebral segment beginning at C3, while their right hand assesses for rotation restrictions in each individual vertebral segment. To help correct a forward- head carriage, the therapist's extended fingers apply light C7– T1 sustained pressure as the client slowly extends their head. To help correct a left sidebending and right rotation musculofascial restriction, the therapist's hands create a gentle counterforce. The client elevates their right shoulder against the therapist's resistance to a count of five, then relaxes. Working with the nervous system, the therapist engages the new right rotation barrier. 3 4 5

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