Ten Steps to Understanding Manual and Movement Therapies for Pain
1. Pain is a category of complex experiences, not a single sensation produced by a single stimulus.
2. Nociception (warning signals from body tissues) is neither necessary nor sufficient to produce pain. In other words, pain can occur in the absence of tissue damage.
3. A pain experience may be induced or amplified by both actual and potential threats.
4. A pain experience may involve a composite of sensory, motor, autonomic, endocrine, immune, cognitive, affective and behavioural components. Context and meaning are paramount in determining the eventual output response.
5. The brain maps peripheral and central neural processing into each of these components at multiple levels. Therapeutic input at a single level may be sufficient to resolve a threat response.
6. Manual and movement therapies may affect peripheral and central neural processes at various stages:
- transduction of nociception at peripheral sensory receptors
- transmission of nociception in the peripheral nervous system
- transmission of nociception in the central nervous system
- processing and modulation in the brain
7. Therapies that are most likely to be successful are those that address unhelpful cognitions and fear concerning the meaning of pain, introduce movement in a non-threatening internal and external context, and/or convince the brain that the threat has been resolved.
8. The corrective physiological mechanisms responsible for resolution are inherent. A therapist need only provide an appropriate environment for their expression.
9. Tissue length, form or symmetry are poor predictors of pain. The forces applied during common manual treatments for pain generally lack the necessary magnitude and specificity to achieve enduring changes in tissue length, form or symmetry. Where such mechanical effects are possible, the clinical relevance to pain is yet to be established. The predominant effects of manual therapy may be more plausibly regarded as the result of reflexive neurophysiological responses.
10. Conditioning for the purposes of fitness and function or to promote general circulation or exercise-induced analgesia can be performed concurrently but points 6 and 9 above should remain salient.