Strain Counterstrain

Strain Counterstrain is the parent term for Positional Release Therapy (PRT). It is a form of manual medicine that resolves pain and tissue dysfunction. Through positioning the body and tissue in positions of comfort, the neurological system can be manipulated to interrupt the pain spasm cycle and over time, to reset the resting length of tissue in a “normal” range, which promotes an increase in strength, performance and function.

Essentially, Strain Counterstrain is the opposite of stretching. Much like unkinking a knot from a chain necklace, Strain Counterstrain works in the same fashion; tissues are pushed together, twisted, compressed and manipulated to take tension off “neurological chain links.” The therapy is pain-free and is suited for all ages and most painful conditions.

The Goal of Strain Counterstrain

The primary goal of Strain Counterstrain is to promote a positive healing environment by correcting musculoskeletal and neurological imbalances to facilitate tissue regeneration, growth, and repair in order for the body to self-correct itself. Dr. Speicher has advanced this technique through his research and clinical practice into a full-body therapy for integration into a comprehensive treatment plan.

Strain Counterstrain was first developed in 1950 by Dr. Lawerence Jones, DO, an osteopathic physician. He first termed it positional release technique then later coined it strain counterstrain due to his theory that the body developed tissue restrictions or tender points (discrete areas of myofascial dysfunction) in tissues not directly insulted.

Therefore, a patient might suddenly strain their back, but the hip flexors opposing the back would be counterstrained–which resulted in these tissues being the primary problem of the patient’s pain, needing release before the back pain would resolve.

How does Strain Counterstrain work?

Osteopathic therapies primarily involve the use of the hands to manipulate tissues. According to Dr. Speicher’s Mechanical Coupling Theory (2006), Strain Counterstrain works to unkink the tissue muscle fibers by decreasing the neural activation of them by both mechanically shortening them and also by changing the neurochemical bonding formed due to pain and inflammation.

Further, the interruption of the neural signal created by pain and inflammation either acute or chronic, decreases neural activation at the spinal cord, brain stem and at the local tissue level. Decreasing the sympathetic drive or gain of the neurologic system over time helps to sustain a normal tissue length, thereby, eliminating or decreasing pain permanently.

However, Strain Counterstrain is often only one part of the treatment process that must be implemented. Once the tissue is released and pain is eliminated, it must often be restored or rehabilitated and then the new tissue length sustained.

When tissues are painful, contracted or inflamed, they weaken and lose size, atrophy. The tissue spasm not only causes pain but inside the twisted tissue are blood vessels and nerves that also become compressed, decreasing blood flow and neural activation, which decreases tissue health.

Will It Work For Me?

Strain Counterstrain is suited for any patient who has a history of either acute or chronic pain. Ideally, knowing the cause or mechanism of injury or the pain (e.g., fall, vehicular accident, sporting injury or an unexpected demand on the body) is helpful to isolate and identify tissue restrictions that may have developed.

Often tissue restrictions or tender points (TPs) develop from athletic or exercise-related participation, stress, a surgical intervention, breast augmentation or visceral dysfunction.

Our practitioners will evaluate you and work with your physician to determine if your symptoms are related to an underlying disease process or are associated with an athletic-related injury.

Is Strain Counterstrain Safe for me?

Strain Counterstrain is safe and effective for most patients because there is no force utilized. It is a passive pain-free therapy.

There are a few general contraindications or conditions that prevent the use of Strain Counterstrain:

  • Systemic Malignancy
  • Abdominal or Thoracic Aneurysms
  • Acute Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA)
  • Open Wounds, Sutures
  • Healing Fractures
  • Hematoma
  • Skin Hypersensitivity
  • Infection