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Positional Release for Spontaneous Muscle Relaxation

© Leon Chaitow ND, DO, MRO

There are few more satisfying, non-invasive, gentle and safe methods for easing muscular contraction,tension or spasm than the various methods which involve ‘positional release’. These methods all call for the positioning of an area, or the whole body, in such a way as to produce a combination of neurological and circulatory changes which produce pain relief and relaxation of soft tissues.

The developer of Functional Technique, Harold V. Hoover DO used the term ‘dynamic neutral’ to describe what it was that was being achieved as disturbed tissues were positioned in a state of ‘ease’.1

As we examine the mechanisms of what is taking place when tissues are placed in a balanced state the terms ‘ease’ and ‘bind’ will frequently be used to describe the extremes of restriction and freedom of movement.

It was Lawrence Jones DO who first developed an approach to joint and soft tissue dysfunction which he termed ‘Strain and Counterstrain’ (SCS).2

Walther Describes Jones Discovery3
‘Jones’ initial observation of the efficacy of counterstrain was with a patient who was unresponsive to treatment. The patient had been unable to sleep because of pain. Jones attempted to find a comfortable position for the patient to aid him in sleeping. After twenty minutes of trial and error, a position was finally achieved in which the patient’s pain was relieved. Leaving the patient in this position for a short time, Jones was astonished when the patient came out of the position and was able to stand comfortably erect. The relief of pain was lasting and the patient made an uneventful recovery.’

The position of ‘ease’ which Jones found for this patient was an exaggeration of the position in which spasm was holding him, which provided Jones with an insight into the mechanisms involved. Many hospitalised patients have been treated for their current pain and discomfort, without leaving their beds, using these methods.4

SCS requires verbal feedback from the patient as to pain in a ‘tender’ point, being palpated by the operator as a monitor while a position of ease is sought.

Where there is a language barrier, or someone has lost the ability to speak, or is too young to cooperate a need exists for a method which allowed the operator to achieve the same ends without words, in which the operator determines a position of ease by means of palpation alone, assessing for a state of ‘ease’ in the tissues.

1. Exaggeration of Distortion

This is an element of SCS methodology.
Consider the example of someone bent forward in psoas spasm/'lumbago' in considerable discomfort or pain. The person would be posturally distorted - bent into flexion,together with rotation and sidebending.

Any attempt to straighten towards a more physiologically normal posture, pushing through the ‘barrier of resistance’ would produce pain.

However moving the area away from the restriction barrier (in this case bending forwards more), increasing the degree of distortion displayed would normally be easy and painless. After 60 to 90 seconds in such a position of ease, a slow return to neutral will commonly leave the patient somewhat or completely relieved of pain and spasm.

2. Replication of Position of Strain.

This is another element of SCS methodology.
If as someone bending they slip or their load shifts they might remain locked into a distorted position as in example 1.

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About The Author
A practicing naturopath, osteopath, and acupuncturist in the United Kingdom, with over forty years clinical experience, Chaitow is Editor-in-Chief, of the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies. He regularly lectures in the United States as well as Europe where he instructs......more
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