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Massage Educators

The purpose of this group is to invite massage educators to network and dialogue regarding issues related to massage therapy education.

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TEXAS CE providers and online course providers

Started by Vlad Jul 26, 2012.

Websites, Blogs, and Smart Phone Aps 13 Replies

Started by Susan G. Salvo. Last reply by Kate D'Italia Jul 18, 2012.

What is your teaching philosophy? 6 Replies

Started by Hillary Kate Arrieta. Last reply by Lela Gonzales Jul 11, 2012.

Technology in the Classroom? 8 Replies

Started by Kristin Coverly. Last reply by Susan G. Salvo Apr 5, 2012.

graduation / closure activities?? 2 Replies

Started by Monique Robertson. Last reply by Melissa DeFrancesco Nov 18, 2011.

Classroom Activities/Student Focus 3 Replies

Started by Melissa DeFrancesco. Last reply by Charlene Gaffney Nov 8, 2011.

DOE discontinuing funding for AS or AAS programs 5 Replies

Started by Melissa DeFrancesco. Last reply by Melissa DeFrancesco Aug 30, 2011.

Marketing Ideas for Student Clinic 6 Replies

Started by Tamra Nelson. Last reply by Jacqueline L. Lander Aug 26, 2011.

Massage and elearning 4 Replies

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Comment by Dawn Lewis on February 28, 2014 at 2:31pm

Spontaneous Muscle Release Technique or SMRT is a positional modality that works with the proprioceptors of the body to either remove excess tension in tissues or to increase tension in hypotonic tissues.  In this way, SMRT seeks to balance the tissues in the area being worked on.  SMRT is similar in concept to Strain/Counterstrain, and one of the primary tenets of both of these techniques is that decreased joint mobility or decreased joint range of motion plays an important role in determining somatic dysfunction.  This was first proposed by Irvin Korr in 1975.  My experience has shown me that when a joint's mobility is decreased, the natural space within that joint is compromised.  Whether the space is decreased throughout the joint, or one side of the joint has decreased space while the other side has increased space, there is a change in the texture and tautness of the ligaments related to that joint.  By moving into the existing tension within a ligament, SMRT positions give deliberate messages to the proprioceptors of said ligament, which communicate the messages to the nervous system.  The nervous system then begins to change the tautness and texture of the ligament based on the messages it has received.


By mildly passively contracting dysfunctional tissue toward ease, the position engages the involved proprioceptors and allows a reduction in neuromuscular firing, which will either bring tone down or increase tone, depending on what is needed in that tissue.  In this description, I am not conflating contractive tone with tightness or tautness.  While a muscle may have contractive hypertonicity that can also be described as tight or taut, certain tissues, while not having direct contractile capabilities, can also become tightened, shortened, or taut.


While most proprioceptors are in muscles and tendons, there are several types of proprioceptors located in ligaments and joint capsules.  Type III and IV peripheral neurons have mechanoreceptive and nociceptive capabilities and are found in joint capsules and ligaments.  The underlying intention of SMRT is to create a "conversation" with these proprioceptors in order to restore homeostasis, reduce tension, mobilize the joints, and create balance throughout the joint ligaments, meaning each ligament has the degree of tautness necessary for it to perform its function, is free of inflammation, and is providing functional information to the nervous system.


While proprioceptive qualities of muscle tissue and tendons is well documented, there is less research and documentation about how proprioceptors create and/or react to tension or tautness in ligaments.  Yet, fascial experiments performed in 1993 by Yahia and in 1996 by Straubesand verified the ability of human fascia to actively contract and experiments with chronic somatic dysfunction have recently shown that somatic dysfunction can be triggered by non-muscular tissues, including ligamentous tissues of joints and organs.


There is research completed in the last five or six years that duplicated the results found by Yahia and Straubesand.  Additionally, there is growing acceptance that non-muscular tissues, including ligaments, can become shortened/taut/tight.  Much of this acceptance is because doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists, and massage therapists who have repeatedly "felt" that this tissue is taut have stepped outside the "it is fact because research tells us it is fact" box, and decided to conduct research on new theories.

Comment by Boris Prilutsky on February 26, 2014 at 6:03pm

Hi Dawn.Professional discussions, have to be free of animosity, but must  offer mutual benefits. In my opinion Whitney, trying to manage very precise and beneficial for all discussion. I personally have no reason not to believe that you are delivering good and sustainable results. But you shall not use Western medicine language/terminology, explaining what are you doing. The main evidence is the outcome. Myself, you, and other educators shall not present not existed facts. You're right, biomedical science most likely will offer us some new data, but meantime we have undeniable very solid scientific data. Would be fair and acceptable, if you will teach your students your method, and will not offer explanations but assurance that this clinically work. During my career I saw people, having no real formal education, somehow knew to perform detailed modalities of orthopedic massage . They didn't skip introductory part, applied techniques to reduce lymphedema size, compressed trigger points, mobilized and released tension within muscles  and fascia. Of course achieved great outcome. At the time I even worked in groups with academicians /PhD who performed horrible procedure, including leading to condition aggravations. I believe there is many different massage techniques and methodologies, to achieve results, however it is impossible to use language you are using. This discussion is beneficial, for you, your students, and other  massage practitioners and educators. I mean everyone who read it will have an opportunity to make conclusions. I feel no animosity to you, more than   this, I am embracing you. For a sake of our clients ,Interest of our professional community, our personal interest, we all have to work together. Individual success promoting great name of massage therapy. We all   on one platform. I mean professional trade association, professional material suppliers etc. the main supporters is a  practitioners in fields, who are paying membership, purchasing equipment, paying for CEs, etc. how many students each of us can teach? We are not competitors. Mutual interests including well-being of our clients, have to be above personal ego and ambitions.

From the bottom of my heart I'm wishing you best wishes.


Comment by Whitney Lowe on February 26, 2014 at 4:58pm

Clarification on my previous post about cervical ligaments. Assuming we are talking about the short ligaments between adjacent vertebrae and not long ones such as the anterior and posterior longitudinal ligaments. 

Comment by Whitney Lowe on February 26, 2014 at 4:54pm

I hope it is clear in my points that there is a distinction between academic debate (which this is), and personal animosity or attack (which it isn't). Academic debate is a critical and essential part of learning and growth in any discipline. Einstein, Heisenberg, and Bohr, for example, had vigorous and often vehement debates about the nature of relativity which helped each of them grow in their understanding as their own theories were critically evaluated and analyzed.

I am not looking for specific language, just a physiological explanation of what supposedly happens to make a ligament shorten if the ligament doesn't have contractile power to fully shorten itself. And, similarly, what is happening to the ligament to achieve the release. You say the "fibers of the ligament are balanced" but I don't understand what you mean by "balanced". How does the ligament actually lengthen? I am fine hearing and considering your theory even if it is not proven by research yet. I am just looking for an explanation that also fits within the biomechanical properties of each tissue and is not just based on one person's visualization of what they think they feel. For example, tissue may feel like it is "melting" because it becomes softer when I work on it and there is an increased degree of warmth. I might then suggest that when I do massage work tissues are melting underneath my hand. However, we know tissues don't melt from manual manipulation so that is not a realistic explanation. 

It does seem that there are some language issues here that are making this difficult for me to understand. I think as educators we must be able to explain these things to our students. For example, you said you can "open up the cervical ligaments from the sacrum," Since none of the cervical ligaments span more than a single joint, could you explain what you mean by that? I assume this has nothing to do with the myofascial connections through the spine as you said you are working on the ligaments in isolation without working on muscular tissues. 

Comment by Dawn Lewis on February 26, 2014 at 2:18pm
I thought about the post I just made, and I am reacting to your language, which I am finding to be inflammatory. I apologize. Having said that, you and I are coming from 2 very different places, which is why I feel that any explanation I would give would not be what you need. I believe that research is a good thing, but I do not choose to be locked into only what is researched.

Let's use language like "the ropelike chains of the type I collagen that ligaments are primarily made up of is effected by what we do with SMRT. While I do not have evidenced based research to explain what that effect is, I believe that after an SMRT release the fibers of the ligaments are balanced."

In time, additional research might possibly be available to support that claim. For now, credibility issues or not, I am choosing to go with what I have "felt" several thousand times.
Comment by Dawn Lewis on February 26, 2014 at 1:58pm
From your posts, Whitney, I am getting that you need the explanation to be couched in specific language and within what is known at this moment. I will be unable to accommodate those needs, and if that loses me credibility with you, I accept that.

As for pressing through the overlying tissues of the neck to get to the ligaments, I can mobilize the cervical vertebrae and release the ligaments using the head or moving the shoulder from the axilla or a variety of other ways. I could even open up the cervical ligaments from the sacrum.
Comment by Whitney Lowe on February 26, 2014 at 11:11am


I don't doubt That you have been able to help people to improve range of motion and relieve pain with a particular technique or method you have developed. However, you can't invent biomechanical properties of tissues that don't exist and say that exist simply because you "feel" them. It is one thing if you want to say something like... "while there is not sufficient research evidence yet, here is a theoretical model for what I think is happening." Where we get into trouble and lose credibility is advocating an explanation that defies the current laws of physiology and claiming it to be a fact without any evidence. I would still welcome any explanation or theoretical model you have about  what is happening physiologically when you "release" ligaments. 

I am also curious about your statement: "I released the cervical ligaments and mobilized the cervical vertebrae for 10 mknutes. I deliberately did no muscle work." Since myofascial tissues completely cover all the ligaments in the cervical region, how are you able to work on the ligaments without affecting the overlying muscles that you are pressing through? 

Comment by Dawn Lewis on February 26, 2014 at 6:57am
I read an article recently from a link posted on facebook about plantar fasciitis. The author of the article said plantar fasciitis is largely misunderstood. First, it was thought to be a shortening of the plantar fascia, then inflammation where the plantar fascia attaches at the medial process of the calcaneal tuberosity, but lately the thinking is that the symptoms may not be in the plantar fascia at all. When the bones of the foot become compressed, whether this happens because of types of shoes worn, surgeries, and/or compensation patterns, there is damage done to the connective tissue attaching to and surrounding those bones. Compression of the tarsal bones leads to shortening of this connective tissue, and because the bones do not move fully while walking, a chafing of the connective tissue with each step. I have several clients with this issue, and with most a combination of deep tissue and SMRT works fairly well for maintenance, but for one client this only increases the inflammation. Knowing that SMRT would not increase inflammation, this week I dropped the deep tissue and combined the SMRT with myofascial unwinding. After the session, she had no pain for the first time in months. Check out Spontaneous Muscle Release Technique for the feet on video at or join us for a live seminar in Seattle,
Comment by Dawn Lewis on February 26, 2014 at 6:48am
Adding to my last reply: 12 years ago I had a booth at a health fair in Dallas, TX to promote SMRT classes. One row over a chiropractor, who also had a booth, was doing computerized assessments of cervical vertebrae alignment. I asked my assistant to go have the assessment done, come back, allow me to work on her neck, and then have the assessment done again. After the initial assessment, the chiropractor asked if she would like an adjustment since there were multiple vertebral misalignments in her neck. She refused and explained our experiment to him. Curious, he invited her to come back for a second assessment after the treatment. Her initial assessment showed a significant right side shift in C1, a significant left side shift in C2, a smaller right side shift in C5, and a smaller left side shift in C6.

I released the cervical ligaments and mobilized the cervical vertebrae for 10 mknutes. I deliberately did no muscle work. She returned and had a second assessment, which showed that all of her vertebrae were now aligned except for C1, which was slightly shifted to the left. Fascinated, the chiropractor came to our booth to get worked on. I believe he initially wanted to make sure I was not doing chiropractic adjustments. He experienced SMRT, and we had a 20 minute conversation about the stress load on ligaments when joints are misaligned or bones are immobile.

In my practice now, I work on 3 chiropractors (and their families, as well as clients they refer). I have had conversations with each of them about the nature of ligaments and the idea that when a joint misaligns, the ligaments operating at that joint become imbalanced (but we use language like "tight/compressed/shortened"). None of these chiropractors take issue with the concept that ligaments react to what is happening to the bones they attach to. And, particularly after experiencing SMRT, all of them see and have felt the benefit of working directly with the ligaments.

Additionally, many of my medical doctors have come to me for treatment. They are curious about what I am doing, which prompts conversation. All of the doctors I have worked on, or currently work on, have heard me say that I am releasing tension from ______ ligament. Each has felt a difference in said ligament after the release. And none have taken issue with the idea that ligaments can be in need of release.

There are things we know to be true that are not as yet fully defined in our physiology knowledge. And, as an aside, earlier I wrote that "I deliberately did no muscle work", but mobilizing and realigning the cervical vertebrae through ligament work generally significantly reduces hypertonicity and tenderness in the neck muscles. This makes muscle work in the neck easy, fast, and highly effective.
Comment by Dawn Lewis on February 25, 2014 at 5:19pm
In response to Whitney's reply: I have been doing and teaching this technique for close to 20 years. I do not believe that we have researched all the human body has to offer and things we believed last year can be challenged this year. In that context, what is important to me is what I feel with my own hands because physiology knowledge will continue to evolve. Instead of making a cognitive leap between the existence of contractile cells and tension in a ligament, I am stating that I have personally felt (and we can argue about language here) tension/shortening/twisting/a textural difference from one side of a joint to the other. As for the example of the ankle, again not making an inaccurate leap with physiology, but I am assuming that my physiology knowledge, and the physiology knowledge of others, is most likely incomplete. With literally hundreds of clients, I have personally felt tension/textural (whatever language works) differences from one side of the talocrural joint to the other. Upon feeling inflammation and what I can only describe as looseness in the lateral talocrural ligaments, I check the deltoid ligament (because I never assume I know, even after hundreds of clients with this problem, that I know what it will feel like), and often I find it to be tight/compressed/flat. At this point I do a "release" for the deltoid ligament, and 30 seconds later, both the deltoid ligament and the lateral ligaments have changed (this change is different for each client, of course). Maybe these changes happen because of the neural engagement I am producing with this "release", maybe these changes occur because of a shift in the talus, tibia, and/or calcaneous. But the fact that changes occur suggest that the ligaments were not in balance to begin with.

And to Boris's post: I have no idea what the Fascia Congress is, nor have I ever read any findings about connective tissue. The technique that I use is by no means new and I have taught it to several hundred students (I used to own a massage school and taught this technique as our third level massage course, now I teach it across the country) over the course of the last 18 years. As for the results: according to my clients, my students, and my students clients, the results are incredibly sustainable and the technique produces these results very, very quickly. The methods I use to mobilize the cervical vertebrae, and yes, "release" the cervical ligaments (which, by the way, I just had done on me an hour ago), last longer than anything else I have ever had done. This is echoed in what I hear from my clients and students.

And I agree Boris, we do have to address tension in ligaments with specifically designed techniques. SMRT is the specifically designed technique I choose to address ligament tension with.

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