What is that voodoo you do?

April 22nd, 2011

Most of my clients are referrals from other clients and they know that I have the reputation for helping people get out of pain, but still don’t have a clue what I do. The methods that I use are so simple, that it is hard for most people to understand how it can work. Part of the reason for this is because our society has been brainwashed into thinking that more is better. People think they need a diagnosis, x-ray, or MRI to find the problem; however, a majority of the time, they are a waste of time and money. I have been trained in several types of postural assessment and usually can see 90% of the clients’ issues as soon as they walk in the door. One of the secrets to being able to do this is that I usually ignore the site of pain and focus on the misalignments of the clients’ body. When I find the misalignments, I use methods that support the body’s own physiological healing and correction processes.

My clients are often amazed how the exercises seem so simple, yet are difficult for them to do. This is because I am asking them to use muscles in a way that they have not been used in a long time. These exercises are principle-based exercises grounded in the fundamentals of physics and biomechanics. The exercises retrain the neuromuscular system and the biomechanical systems of the body, reminding each muscle of the function it is designed to perform. The secret here is applying a progression of properly sequenced exercises that have been systematically oriented to correct each client’s unique dysfunction patterns.

Bowenwork is even more simplistic in application but accomplishes more than just about any other bodywork I know of. Bowenwork simply stimulates the body’s nervous system to reset to a natural state. It seems like magic because so little touch is done to the body, but this is why it is so effective. There are some physiological laws that can explain why this works.

Arndt-Schultz Law – Weak stimuli activate physiological processes: very strong stimuli inhibit physiological responses.

Using a gentle, slow Bowenwork move will activate physiological responses. Tissue that is gently agitated will heal faster than tissue that is painfully stimulated. A weak stimulus activates tissue growth and wound healing. Trigger points and deep tissue work can give off strong impulses that can turn off other processes in the body. This law explains why using a slow gentle Bowenwork move is more effective than a fast and hard twang or deep sustained pressure.

Hilton’s Law – A nerve trunk that supplies a joint also supplies the muscles of the joint and the skin over the attachments of such muscles.

Stimulation of any level affects all levels. This is the reason working superficially on the body will often create a deeper release of tissues. By stimulating the superficial structures (i.e., skin or outer layers of muscle), all of structures supplied by that nerve trunk are affected. That is why we can use such a small amount of pressure with a Bowenwork move and have such great effect.

All or None Law The principle that the strength by which a nerve or muscle fiber responds to a stimulus is not dependent on the strength of the stimulus. If the stimulus is any strength above threshold, the nerve or muscle fiber will give either a complete response or no response at all.

This law implies that we only need enough stimulation with a Bowenwork move to take the nerve or muscle fiber just above its threshold to initiate a response. Less is best. Using only the necessary stimulus means we can help the body re-balance its tension while eliminating irritation and inflammation brought on by overworking an area.

As you can see, there is plenty of science behind the methods that I use. It is not magic or voodoo; it is thousands of hours of learning how the body is designed to work, then stimulating it to work properly. If you are serious about healing your pain (not just feeling better for a little while), then stop getting beat up with massage or forcing your bones to move with chiropractic. Learn how to help your body’s natural healing process. The results will last and it does not have to hurt to get better. After all, pain is NOT weakness leaving the body! Pain is your body’s way of telling you there is a problem. If you listen to your body, you can feel great.

Chronic Lower body issues? Get your butt to work!

February 7th, 2011

If you have had chronic hamstring pulls, low back pain or tightness, hamstrings or calves that are always tight, hip or ankle/foot issues, there is a good chance that your butt doesn’t work (1).

In my 12 years as a fitness trainer and massage therapist (over 7 years doing Bowenwork), I have discovered that weak, inactive or misfiring glutes can allow the body to overuse the iliopsoas as well as hamstrings and low back.

One of the most common causes of decreased neuromuscular efficiency in the gluteals is brought about through reciprocal inhibition. RI is a principle whereby a tight muscle will cause decreased neural input to its functional antagonist (opposing muscle). EMG data has demonstrated that tight muscles have a propensity to activate easier and at times when they would remain less active. From a mechanical perspective, a tight muscle will also limit the range of motion that its antagonist can move through. In the case of the glutes, a tight iliopsoas will mechanically cause a decrease in the hip extension as well as neurologically cause a decrease in neural drive to the glutes. When the neural drive decreases, it will no longer produce the same amount of force or proper timing. In order to maintain the same productivity of a given movement pattern (i.e., hip extension), the synergists (hamstrings, add magnus, erector spinae) must take up the slack. This is known as synergistic dominance. (2)

Synergistic dominance produces a movement pattern that occurs with altered neurological and mechanical control. The synergists take over the role of prime movers, and the nervous system will now respond to them by increasing their neural drive. A tight iliopsoas will mechanically limit the glutes movement through its functional ROM and thus can’t be utilized as much during movement. This restriction will also decrease the neural drive to the glutes. Fortunately, this process will also work in reverse. If we increase the neural drive to the glutes, we can decrease the drive to the iliopsoas helping to decrease the chronic tension.(3)

Doing Specific Bowenwork procedures can temporarily increase the neural drive to the glutes as the iliopsoas begins to relax.(4) The next step is to correct the muscle firing pattern and strengthen the glutes. Doing lunges, squats and bridges will not change the timing or synergistic dominance that has been created by the inhibition since the synergistic muscles must also be activated with these exercises.  We must first focus the neural drive to the glutes before we do multi-action exercises, as Paul Chek says, “Isolate then integrate”.

I do this by having my clients do a simple glute contraction. This is to be done very specifically. I have clients lay on their backs with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. This position makes it very easy to see if the there is compensation (are they activating the synergistic muscles first?). The glute contraction must happen in isolation with no other muscles activating (i.e., stomach, pelvic tilt, hamstrings, pelvic floor). Doing the glute contraction and getting the glute to fire in isolation first, will help to correct the neural drive patterns and increase the stability of the hips and legs.

Because of the synergistic dominance pattern that happens with weak glutes, this exercise will not only help to keep the iliopsoas from tightening again, it will also help with chronic hamstring and low back issues as well.


1. When the Diagnosis Is ‘Dead Butt Syndrome By JEN A. MILLER

2. Theoretical basis for patterning EMG amplitudes , Edgerton VR, olf S, Roy RR

3. Rlalston, 53’

4. The Bowen Technique, John Wilks

Why do we stretch?

January 5th, 2011

First of all let me start by saying that I know many who read this will not agree with me, and that is fine. This is simply to explain why I choose to have my clients stop stretching based on the personal research that I have done. If you are stretching clients and getting results without hurting them then keep doing what your doing. If you have ever wondered why you have to keep stretching to keep your muscles loose, maybe this will help.

My definition of stretching is different from others. I do not consider yoga or any type of movement where you have to hold an extended ROM with the agonist (primary), synergist (assisting) or antagonist (opposite) muscles, stretching. My definition of stretching is holding a muscle in an extended ROM without the use of surrounding muscles for an extended period of time.

Let’s start with simple logic and common sense. While you are in the act of stretching, you are putting tension in the muscle which temporarily restricts blood flow and puts unnecessary pressure on the nerves. I can’t understand why we would ever want to do that for 30 to 60 seconds or more.
 Think of your muscle as a Chinese finger trap and your fingers as the blood vessels and nerves. The more you stretch the finger trap, the more pressure is put on your fingers. Have you ever seen an animal stretch for more than a few seconds? They pay attention to how the body feels, they do not have the mental capacity to ignore the body.

When you stretch a tight muscle, the segments of the muscle with less tension, tendons and ligaments will start to stretch before the tense segments. “Stretch weakness can be seen in tendons and ligaments that have been forcefully over-stretched in attempts to lengthen the belly of a shortened muscle”(1).

 Think of silly putty, as you pull on it to stretch it, the thinner, less dense part of the putty will stretch before the thicker parts. This is why trigger point therapists are supposed to gently stretch the muscle then apply gentle pressure to the Trp to the point of resistance(2). The pressure on the dense area helps to release it.

Now some Physiological processes. Static stretching stimulates autogenic inhibition. AI is the process of neural impulses that sense tension becoming greater than the impulses causing muscle contraction (3). Basically AI shuts off the muscle contraction. The issues with this, is that it is short lived, shortly after you start to move again the muscle will tighten back up. Because the muscle shuts down, you definitely do not want to do this type of stretch before a workout. Static stretching also activates the Myotatic stretch reflex when done too forcefully, which prevents the muscle from stretching too far or too fast. This reflex initiates after about 2 seconds of a stretch (4). When you start to hold a stretch and after a few seconds you feel like the stretch is getting tighter, that is the stretch reflex trying to protect your muscle from over stretching by contracting.

I prefer to use any type of active or functional stretching that uses a muscular contraction with the stretch. Most of these types of stretching initiate reciprocal inhibition. RI is when the contraction of a muscle inhibits its antagonist. “After a muscle has been shortened by stimulation, there is no appreciable spontaneous lengthening of the muscle during relaxation. Muscles are caused to lengthen in the intact body by the pull of antagonistic muscles, by the action of gravity, and the like” (5). Because these types of stretches also activate muscles, you can sequence them to correct the neural drive to the muscles, helping to correct any synergistic dominance patterns that have developed and re-training your body to move correctly with much more efficiency. Correcting the neural drive and movement pattens of the body are what I have found to be the key to long term muscular balance. This type of stretching is great for warm-ups and could even be done as exercise routines by themselves.

I know there is not a lot of detail in this blog, it is simply to make you think, do your own research and come up with what works for you.

1. Kendall and McCreary, 83’ – Spring 91’
2.Travell, trigger point manual, vol 1
3.NASM AIF course manual 03’
4.Active Isolated Stretching, Mattes 00’
5. Ralston 53’

Why do Bodyworkers cause their clients pain?

November 15th, 2010

I get many clients that have come to me from other therapists that have not been able to help them. A common theme with these clients is that the previous therapist hurt them with the bodywork. I would hope that therapists of any kind are being taught that “pain is an indication of tissue or nerve irritation. Acute or severe pain is a warning that something is physically wrong. Even though massage is an effective tool in controlling pain, If massage increases the overall level of pain it should be dis-continued. Please note that some massage techniques can be uncomfortable as they are being applied: however, the discomfort should not be so intense that it hurts the client or lingers beyond the direct application of the manipulation”1

Sadly, I know that there are some people out there teaching that therapist caused pain is good. Trigger point therapists seem to be the most common, although not the only ones. If you read Travell & Simons’ Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction The trigger point manual it says ” To apply Trp pressure release, the clinician lengthens the muscle to the point of increasing resistance within the comfort zone” “The patient may feel a degree of discomfort but should not experience pain.” 2  Tom Myers,  a very well known Rolfer, says in his book Anatomy Trains ” Pain accompanied by the clients motor intention to withdraw is reason to stop, let up, or slow down.” 3  Deane Juhan Says ” There is a tendency among some practitioners to regard brief periods of intense pain as being a worth-while price to pay for the promised long-term improvements. This justification is sometimes carried to the extent that excessive pressures are used which bruise or even tear various tissues. Such an attitude is ill-advised, and I would strongly urge any client to refuse to tolerate extreme pain during a bodywork session. For one thing, acute pain announces imminent tissue damage. For another, even in the absence of actual damage, acute pain creates a reflex neuromuscular contractile response which reverses the desired process of softening and lengthening” 4 

The number one rule in my clinic is NO PAIN! I am not allowed to cause clients pain and the client is not allowed to do anything that causes themselves pain. I hope that any bodyworker reading this will seriously think about what these authors are saying and stop hurting their clients if they are currently doing so. If you are a client that receives painful bodywork, please refuse to allow anyone to hurt you. Remember that these are not my words, they are from people with much more experience and much wiser than me, I have just chosen to listen.

1. Milady’s Theory and practice of Therapeutic Massage,  Mark Beck Pg.39

2. Travell & Simon’s MyofascialPain and Dysfunction,  Janet Travell, M.D.Pg. 141

3. Anatomy Trains,  Tom Myers Pg 269

4. Job’s Body, Deane Juhan pg 89