Counterstrain Technique

In many cases, and person experiences back pain or muscle pain as a result of muscle spasms, which are continued contractions of the muscle that become moderately to extremely painful. Muscle spasms are one of the body's reflexive responses to prevent injuries from happening, or prevent injuries from becoming worse. Imagine a more simple to understand body reflex - the moving of your hand away from scalding water. This body reflex is so fast that your hand jerks away even before you actually experience pain. This reflexive response keeps you from suffering from a serious burn. With muscle injuries, the muscle goes into a spasm to restrict and further movements of the body in that part of the body has been injured for some reason. In response to an injury, the nerves become excited, sending alarm signals to the brain, which causes these muscles to contract and sustain that state of contraction. The nerves continue to fire until the original injury has healed. In some cases, though, the nerves associated with that muscle remain excited even after the injury has healed, or because the injury fails to heal properly. Conditions in which the injury fails to heal completely include cases of muscular imbalances and subluxations of the joints. Joint subluxations include injuries where the joints are more subtly moves out of their correct positions, as opposed to more complete dislocations such as would occur in an obviously separated shoulder. Due to these conditions, the muscles remain in a perpetual, long term state of spasms or tightness/tension, which may be chronically painful. The counterstrain technique is designed to provide a long-term treatment and relaxation of the muscles which have become chronically tight.

The Counterstrain technique is a manual therapy practiced by therapists such as Chiropractors, Osteopaths, and massage therapists. The therapist will isolate the muscles which are involved causing the pain, and will find positions that ease the tension on the muscle. The cause of the muscle pain, according to experts such as Randall S. Kusunose, believe that the origination of the muscle spasms and trigger points are aberrant neuron flow from the muscle spindle, which fires due to a chronic injury in the area, or due to the misfiring of these nerves. Whatever the reason for the continued firing or misfiring of the nerves, the patient will not be able to sustain comfort and health if the continued muscle tension continues. The therapist will mimic the original strain position or applying a "counterstrain". This will be done by passively mimicking the original strain position and moving the joint in a direction of ease. This manual adjustment will shorten the involved muscles. The therapist will hold this position for 90 seconds, allowing the firing frequency of the nerves associated with that muscle spindle to return to a normal rate. Returning the neuron firing frequency to normal will cause the muscle tension to decrease back to healthy levels. This reduction of muscular tension will have the effect of sustained pain relief in the patient.

Once the natural position is achieved, the doctor or massage therapist will then stretch and manipulate the muscle to eliminate any areas of residual tightness. This manipulation of the muscle will be done to identify and smooth out areas specific areas in the muscle, called trigger points.

This positioning of the body, and treatment of tense fibers and trigger points, may help to provide the patient with lasting correct muscle functioning and positioning.

The Counterstrain Technique, also known as the Strain-Counterstrain Technique, may be used to correct muscular imbalances, which may cause poor posture, improper body mechanics, and pain. During the treatments, the doctor or therapists hold the body in positions that cause the muscle to shorten, and the muscles to eventually relax. These positions are typically held for 90 seconds, though they may be held for as long as 5 minutes if necessary. These techniques may be used in areas of muscle spasms and chronic tightness. The counterstrain technique may also be used for lower back pain and in muscles which are affected following a surgery.