Common questions about NeuroKinetic Therapy (NKT) include: “How does it work?”, “Can it help me?” and “When will I feel a positive change?”. For me, a great way to understand the answers to such questions is to have some examples, so that’s what I’m going to provide here!
First, it’s important to note that there’s no blanket answer for whether NKT can help and when somebody will feel a positive change after a treatment (e.g., less pain, better posture, improved movement, etc.). We’re all wonderfully diverse, and it’s really as much down to the clients what benefit they’ll get as it is down to the NKT practitioner supporting their change.
As I started learning NKT, I realised I didn’t have much, if any, real control of the benefits my clients would have from an NKT session. I could be doing some amazing things and the client may feel fantastic at the end of the session. However, if the treatment isn’t followed up by doing homework regularly, and doing it correctly, then the benefits don’t last. As a practitioner, that leaves one quite vulnerable. But, it just makes it even more rewarding when supporting somebody who takes responsibility for their health and get significant benefits very quickly!
Many teachers, sages and philosophers have taught a core message that is highly relevant in this context, and it applies to every aspect of health and wellbeing (and happiness). It is about taking responsibility for your own health and happiness, and the actions that affect them. When you take responsibility for your own health and happiness, you stop looking for somebody else (or something else) to make you happy and healthy. In my experience, that’s such a game changer. It’s very empowering, and it allows wonderful change to occur.
This kind of perspective allows people to see a therapist as somebody who facilitates and supports them in the changes they would like to make for themselves. Not as somebody who will fix them without doing anything themselves. That is really core to the ethos of Ephemeral Energy, and the case studies below are just two examples of how NKT works in practice and can help give significant benefit to somebody.
15 years of shoulder and neck pain
The main complaint for this client was shoulder and neck pain, with restricted range of movement of the shoulder joint. These issues went back about 15 years. No investigations had given them answers to resolving the issues, but they had found ways of managing their health and wellbeing primarily though self-massage, tai chi, yoga and other lifestyle changes.
The pains started after long hours of desk-based work for several weeks. The client had no other medical conditions. No accidents. No operations. And shortly before our first NKT session, they had developed pain and swelling in their left ankle for no apparent reason.
The only pointer in the client history was the desk-bound work 15 years ago. Could that really be it? Well, in short, yes, and I’ve already touched on this in a previous blog post on the importance of moving (and, the potential issues of sitting too much).
For any client, the first priority is to determine what the core is doing (e.g., abdominals, lower back muscles, diaphragm and pelvic floor). But, when there’s a lifestyle factor of sitting a lot, the Posterior Oblique Subsystem of the body is typically affected. This involves the largest muscles of the body: the Gluteus Maximus, connected to the opposite Latissimus Dorsi via the Thoracolumbar Fascia.
The Thoracolumbar Fascia is a common source of lower back pain if the Gluteus Maximus and Latissimus Dorsi aren’t working as they should. But, in this case, the main complaints were right-sided neck and shoulder pain, and left-sided ankle pain. No lower back pains.
Could it be that the ankle and neck/shoulder pains were connected? Actually, yes, through the Posterior Oblique Subsystem. Just look at that diagonal in the picture above; if the left Gluteus Maximus isn’t working as it should, something down that left leg is likely to suffer (due to how muscles work in kinetic chains). And same for the muscles of the right shoulder if the Latissimus Dorsi isn’t working as it should either.
The first NKT session started with functional movement assessment, giving clues that there was something related to the core to address first. In NKT, the core is viewed as intrinsic stabilisation muscles and extrinsic muscles primarily performing movement. The Gluteus Maximus and Latissimus Dorsi are a part of the latter.
We found that both Gluteus Maximus muscles were not firing properly when performing manual muscle testing. The client was also unable to meet pressure from a perturbation test, which involves pushing them backwards when standing. The latter helped determine that there was a global pattern, and we found a relationship between the Gluteus Maximus and the Tibialis Anterior muscles (front of the shins).
As the Gluteus Maximus had become underactive, the Tibialis Anterior had been compensating. There was more tightness on the left leg, with some muscle adhesions with the other shin muscles. Releasing the muscle tissues of the shins with targeted massage, we were able to activate the Gluteus Maximus and the client was able to comfortably meet the pressure of the perturbation test (i.e., they easily managed to resist the me pushing them backwards). This resolved the ankle issues, and was part one of the Posterior Oblique Subsystem issues.
In the upper body, using manual muscle testing, we found that the right Latissimus Dorsi was underactive. In terms of neck and shoulder muscles, the Latissimus Dorsi depresses the scapulae along with the Pectoralis Minor and Serratus Anterior muscles. Opposing this action, the Upper Trapezius and Levator Scapulae elevate the scapulae. So, when such a large muscle as the Latissimus Dorsi stops doing its job, something else pays the price for that. Like the Tibialis Anterior did for the Gluteus Maximus.
All the above muscles were tight, and some were causing pain. But, that doesn’t mean they should all be released, which I explored in this blog post. When testing the right Latissimus Dorsi and the Upper Trapezius, I could see that the Pectoralis Minor was kicking in, trying to compensate. Using the NKT protocols, we established that the Pectoralis Minor was facilitated in relationship to the Latissimus Dorsi. The Pectoralis Minor was very tight and the right shoulder joint was essentially locked down.
The Pectoralis Minor also protracts the scapulae (rolls the shoulder forward), which was the main reason for the limited range of movement they had in the shoulder joint. Just try to roll your shoulder forward and raise your arm straight up in front of you and above your head. Probably won’t get far, but if you relax your shoulder back and down, see what happens. That’s one of the things the Latissimus Dorsi helps with.
Having applied the NKT testing protocol, activating the Latissimus Dorsi, the Pectoralis Minor released very quickly and the tension melted away, freeing up the shoulder. The client felt a lot better and the range of movement in the shoulder joint improved significantly.
The client was given homework to a) self-massage to release the shin muscles (Tibialis Anterior) and activate the Gluteus Maximus with a light exercise, and b) self-massage to release the right Pectoralis Minor and activate the right Latissimus Dorsi with a light exercise.
When we met up for a second session a few weeks later, the corrections held as the client had performed their homework well. We were then able to also address another pattern that their brain had learned due to the underactive Latissimus Dorsi. We found that the right Serratus Anterior was also overactive, but in a relationship to the right Upper Trapezius, which was still causing tension in the neck. So, although the Upper Trapezius had been a source of pain and discomfort for about 15 years, it was actually underactive. Interested readers can read more about this phenomenon in this blog post.
The client was given homework to release the right Serratus Anterior with self-massage, followed by activation of the right Upper Trapezius.
Knee and hip pain
As with the above client, this example is of a client who had been doing a lot of work on their health and wellbeing, both emotionally and physically, but still had some issues that had not gone away. The main complaints were left knee and hip pain, with occasional right knee pain. About a year prior to our NKT session their issues had become worse after hurting their hip while snowboarding and twisted their left knee a few months later.
Besides the recent incidents, their client history included falling onto both knees at school over 20 years ago. After twisting their knee, they had sought medical help and was diagnosed with Hoffa’s Syndrome. This is inflammation of the fat pad underneath the knee cap (patella). They had gotten better with physiotherapy and an MRI scan showed no structural problems contraindicating treatment.
There are many muscles that move the knee joint (to flex and extend it), and the physiotherapists had identified an issue with the Tensor Fascia Lata (TFL), which is a fairly small muscle that contributes to hip flexion and knee extension (via the Iliotibial band). They had already been doing release work of this muscle, using a massage ball. However, the relief was not permanent.
From an NKT perspective the recurrent tension in the TFL suggests it’s compensating for something else that’s not doing what it should. Due to the knee pain described, typically just below the knee cap, I was suspicious of the Rectus Femoris. This is also a hip flexor and knee extensor, attaching to the Quadriceps Tendon and Patellar Ligament that goes over the knee cap and attaches below it on the Tibia. A synergist with the TFL. I was also curious about a small muscle called Politeus, which wraps around the back of the knee. Andrew Biel has referred to this rather nicely as “the key to the knee” because it unlocks it by doing the first 15 degrees or so of knee flexion.
To determine if any of those muscles were indeed relevant, I applied my massage therapy skills to palpate the muscle tissues to determine their tone; looking for high tone tissues (tension, perhaps with trigger points). All were indeed high tone.
Next step was to apply NKT muscle testing and things seemed to be strong, except the client used subtle compensation strategies to meet the pressure of the muscle testing. Once we addressed that, we were able to determine that the Rectus Femoris was “weak”. Further, applying the NKT protocols, we determined that both the Politeus and TFL were facilitated (overactive) in relation to the Rectus Femoris. Two small muscles trying to compensate for a big muscle part of the quadriceps group. No wonder the client experienced pain!
After the NKT treatment, the client was able to go home with homework to augment what they had already been doing from the physiotherapist. Releasing the TFL using a massage ball as before, but also the Politeus and, very importantly, followed by a simple activation exercise for the Rectus Femoris.
The Popliteus was very tender and uncomfortable for the client to release as it was so tight. Due to their hobbies, the new pattern was significantly challenged, so they inevitably experienced some discomfort for a few days. However, they persisted and was diligent with their homework and after almost a week, felt significantly better. By the time we had our next session, there was no more pain.
Although we had focused on the left leg in the first session, the new pattern had propagated across to the other leg. Previously, there was a similar pattern, but only between the TFL and the Rectus Femoris. We tested the relevant muscles on both legs and they were all strong.
I chose both of the above examples for a few reasons:
- They relate to issues that a lot of people experience, so I think they are good examples that I hope people can relate to.
- Both clients had already worked on their health and wellbeing for a long time, showing examples of why NKT is often referred to as “the missing link”.
- Both clients experienced significant benefit quickly because they had already taken responsibility for their health and the NKT was part of a bigger picture for them. NKT gave them something different to work on, which was able to dig into the underlying reasons for their pains.
Hopefully the examples above give a better picture of how NKT works and what kind of issues it can help. I also hope that the examples are motivational and help demonstrate that clients are an active part of their own healing process with NKT. Also, to show that sometimes we have to work through something that’s a bit uncomfortable only to get through it feeling much better!
More complex cases would typically involve much more of what I call “peeling off layers off an onion” for lack of a better expression. With both clients, we also incorporated breathing exercises, though omitted from the narrative above. The root of a problem, even if the main complaints relate to an ankle, neck or hand, may stem from issues with breathing and core stability muscles. Therefore, those things need to be resolved first, so it typically takes several sessions before significant change can be observed for more complex cases.
This post has also omitted the emotional component, which can be a significant factor. In brief, there can be emotional triggers of physical health issues. For example, strong emotions can be related to an accident, injury or surgery. If this is the case, NKT corrections are unlikely to be effective on their own, but it can be effective when clients get support for the emotional triggers as well.
Anatomical images in this blog post were all created with Complete Anatomy.