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Strain and Counterstrain

Strain and counterstrain is a type of indirect osteopathic manipulative soft tissue technique developed by Lawrence Jones in 1955 to passively treat musculoskeletal pain, decreased range of motion, and somatic dysfunction (muscles, nerves, and lymphatic systems) by causing changes in the cellular function of the tissues being treated.

Strain Counterstrain is manual therapy technique that involves applying gentle pressure to specific points on the body in order to reduce pain. This technique is based on the principle that certain muscles, tendons, and ligaments can become shortened or strained due to injury or overuse. By applying gentle pressure to these specific points, the therapist can release the tension and help to reduce pain. This technique is often used in combination with other manual therapy techniques such as massage or chiropractic care.

Strain and counterstrain is an effective approach to improving acute soft tissue dysfunction. The patient’s body is moved through non-painful directions until positions of relief, decreased muscular tension, or reported relief are found. The passive positioning of muscle tissue that is hypertonic (excessive tone or tension) towards positions of comfort assists in forcing immediate reduction of muscle tone to normal levels. This technique is extremely gentle.

How is this technique used?

Strain Counterstrain is used to treat orthopedic disorders causing pain including:

  • Acute pain
  • Chronic pain
  • Headaches
  • Muscle spasms
  • Joint pain
  • Arthritis
  • TMJ – Jaw pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Sports injuries
  • Achilles tendonitis
  • Ankle sprain
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Elbow tendonitis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Golfer’s elbow
  • Hip pain
  • Knee pain
  • Low back pain
  • Neck pain
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Rotator cuff injury
  • Shoulder pain
  • Tennis elbow
  • Whiplash
  • Chronic edema
  • Complex regional pain syndrome

How does it work?

The therapist seeks to identify the dysfunctional muscle groups by identifying tender points, areas of tense, tender and swollen muscles, and fascia. They will use their hands to apply gentle pressure to these specific points on the body, known as tender points. The therapist will maintain this pressure for a short period of time, typically between 30 seconds and 2 minutes. The pressure decompresses the restricted tissues. This technique is believed to work by helping to release muscle spasms and tension, which can lead to pain relief.

Why does it work?

Strain-counterstrain is designed to relieve pain and restore the function in the lymph system to treat local inflammation and circulation to help with nutrients and waste removal, decrease swelling and improve tender point pain caused by a lack of blood flow.

Improved drainage can release the fascia to relieve muscle and connective tissue tightness so that the muscles can move more freely.

Is it safe?

Strain and counterstrain is a gentle technique that is considered to be safe for most people. There is no risk of further injury or pain when using this technique. However, as with any manual therapy technique, it is always important to consult with a healthcare professional before beginning treatment.

When you or a loved one suffers from pain and dysfunction, contact CAO Sports Performance and Therapy to discover how manual therapy can improve your pain and quality of life. We have offices in California, Leonardtown, and Waldorf, Maryland for your convenience.

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