What Is Neuromuscular Therapy And How Does It Differ From Regular Massage?

As a Neuromuscular Therapist, this is a common question that I often hear. For the purposes of this article, I will assume that everyone reading it, at some point or anther, has had a typical massage. Spas, massage therapists and physical therapists will often offer relaxation massage programs and while they can serve limited needs, a program of Neuromuscular Therapy can be much more effective in alleviating minor, severe and chronic muscular pain.


What is Neuromuscular Therapy?

Neuromuscular Therapy is a highly specialized type of soft tissue therapy designed to relieve pain and return injured tissues to normal function. It utilizes specific, targeted soft tissue treatment, flexibility stretching and self-care to eliminate the causes of most muscular aches and pains. It can provide long-term pain relief where other approaches have failed. Neuromuscular Therapy balances the nervous system with the muscular and skeletal systems and naturally brings the body back into alignment. It addresses postural and muscular imbalances, nerve entrapment, ischemia Trigger Points - Trigger Point Therapy - Sagewood Wellness Center(reduced blood flow to an area of the body) and muscular trigger points.

Identifying and treating Trigger Points (TrPs) is a significant aspect of Neuromuscular Therapy. TrPs are hyper-sensitive, pea-sized nodules, or “knots”, which develop in injured muscles. Trigger points can cause pain either at the site of the TrP or refer pain throughout the body. They can also cause tingling or numbness, muscle stiffness, fatigue, and/or weakness. Examples of referred pain include: sciatica-like symptoms, carpal tunnel- like symptoms, TMJ Syndrome and headaches. If not treated correctly, Trigger Points often cause debilitating pain which can last for years. Some causes of injury resulting in TrP pain may be activities that require repetitive motion, chronic physical or emotional stress, a fall or accident, and postural or muscular imbalances. Poor nutrition can also play a role in the development of TRPs.  


History Of Neuromuscular Therapy

For over 4,000 years, massage therapy has been used as a tool for healing. Hippocrates, the Father of modern medicine himself, used massage frequently and massage has been a part of many ancient cultures including China, India, Japan, Korea, Egypt, Rome, Greece, and Mesopotamia.

Janet G. Travell & John F. Kennedy - Sagewood Wellness Center

Dr. Janet Travell and John F. Kennedy

In the 1930′s Dr. Stanley Lief, a trained Chiropractor and Naturopathic Physician along with his cousin Boris Chaitow, also trained in chiropractic and naturopathy, experimented with neuromuscular treatments for muscular pain at Leif’s world-famous health resort in Hertfordshire, England. The treatment was so successful that their neuromuscular massage technique became common practice in osteopathic and sports therapy venues all over Europe.

Over the next several decades, two American Doctors, Dr. Janet Travell and Dr. David Simons, published a two volume set of textbooks titled The Trigger Point Manual on Upper Body and Lower Body Pain. These volumes identified with research, documentation, and references that the source of most body pain was related to tiny “knots” in your muscles, or Trigger Points. As a result, a whole new field of study for chronic pain was introduced to the medical, dental, massage, and therapeutic communities, aptly called Neuromuscular Therapy.

Dr. Janet Travell went on to become the first woman to hold the position of White House Physician and was the personal physician to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. JFK actually credits her Trigger Point / Neuromuscular Massage Therapy as the only effective treatment for his debilitating back pain that was so crippling he actually considered stepping down as President. President Kennedy once called her a “medical genius”. Dr. Travell is a huge inspiration to me personally and, through her work, was one of my primary mentors in my educational journey to become a Neuromuscular Therapist. 

Today, medical doctors, chiropractors, osteopathic physicians and physical therapists advocate the use of Neuromuscular Therapy to ensure maximum health. 


Benefits of Neuromuscular Therapy

Neuromuscular Therapy produces results where other approaches have failed. It can be part of a comprehensive program, complementing other health care approaches for a program of total well-being, or it may be part of a targeted approach designed to focus on specific areas of pain.


  • Reduction or elimination of pain
  • Greater flexibility and strength
  • Increased ease and efficiency of movement
  • Balanced musculoskeletal and nervous systems
  • Improved posture
  • Increased circulation
  • Decreased body toxins
  • Increased energy and vitality


Daily Living Pains and Strains

  • Neck/Back/Shoulder Pain or Discomfort
  • General Muscular Aches and PainsNeuromuscular Therapy - Sagewood Wellness Center
  • Arm and Hand Pain/Tingling
  • Leg and Foot Pain/Numbness
  • Tendonitis
  • Whiplash
  • Muscle Strains

Chronic Conditions

  • Headaches
  • Arthritis
  • Circulatory Problems
  • Reduced Flexibility
  • Sciatica
  • TMJ Syndrome
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome


Sagewood Wellness Center – Making My Own Path

At Sagewood Wellness Center, my motto is “Your Path To Wellness” as I work with clients to create their very own customized path to health, wellness and living pain-free. While Dr. Janet Travell was an inspiration to me and her work was the basis for most of my education, my interest in overall health led me to take a more integrated approach to my work. To this end I have incorporated Neuromuscular Therapy, Trigger Point Therapy and Therapeutic Massage, along with Integrative Mind-Body Therapy, Reiki and overall Wellness Coaching to serve my clients through complete health and wellness programs designed for their specific individual needs. This personalization allows for a more comprehensive and effective approach to pain relief, relaxation and overall wellness, than just traditional Massage Therapy. 

Have a balanced day! ~Maria


Sagewood Wellness Center - Your Path to Wellness - Neuromuscular Therapy

Sagewood Wellness Center – Your Path to Wellness

Thanks to Kerto Koppel-Catlin for the image above, found on Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kerto/3496642425/in/dateposted-public/



About The Author

Maria Martos - Sagewood Wellness Center - San Juan Capistrano - Nueromuscular Therapy

Maria Martos – Owner & Founder of Sagewood Wellness Center

Maria Martos is the owner and founder of Sagewood Wellness Center in San Juan Capistrano, CA. As a certified Neuromuscular Therapist, Maria specializes in the treatment of severe, chronic or minor pain, as well as injury rehabilitation and prevention. She holds a certification in Sports Massage providing her with expertise to evaluate and address athletic injuries and to help professional and recreational athletes improve their athletic performance. Maria is Board Certified by the NCBTMB, and provides therapeutic massage sessions for those seeking stress reduction and relief from generalized aches pains, and tension. Maria holds a Master of Science in Counseling Psychology, and offers individual Counseling, focusing on Integrative Mind-Body Therapy to help individuals uncover and remove unconscious blocks that limit them from living their best lives.  She is also a Reiki Master and Teacher, and has worked in the health care field for over 25 years.