Strain-counterstrain therapy: What it is and how it can benefit you

Strain-counterstrain therapy is one of many manual therapy techniques that physical therapists use. The goal of this treatment method is to help patients decrease pain levels and regain their mobility and flexibility. But what is strain-counterstrain therapy, and how can it help you get your life back?

This manual therapy treatment has two main focuses: spasmed muscles and dysfunctional joints. This method can help relax your muscles and ease pain in your affected joints. So, how does it work? Using their hands, a physical therapist will locate the tender point, apply pressure, and adjust the patient into a comfortable position that they will then hold for 90 seconds. This technique is gentle on the body and can help with many different issues. Used alongside other techniques, it can actually increase the positive impact of a patient’s overall physical therapy outcomes.

What is strain-counterstrain therapy?

Let’s take a more in-depth look at what strain-counterstrain therapy is by using an example. If you have pain in your ankle joint, your physical therapist can perform strain-counterstrain therapy on you in a few simple steps.

First, they will locate the source of your discomfort, often called a tender point. This tender point may be adjacent to the painful ankle joint. Then, while pressing on that tender point, they will gently shift your leg and ankle until you are in a comfortable resting position, usually referred to as a position of ease. This position can be different for every person. Once your therapist finds your ideal position of ease, they will hold you in that position for approximately 90 seconds. After the time has elapsed, they will slowly bring your joint back to its normal resting position.

Because this technique is performed by the physical therapist without the aid or movement of the patient, it’s considered a passive modality. This technique can be used alone, or it can be incorporated along with other manual therapy techniques such as soft tissue mobilization and gentle stretches. The goal of this therapy is to relax the affected muscles, bring pain relief, and allow the muscle to regain its range of motion.

Strain-counterstrain therapy is used to help treat many different injuries and conditions, including:

In addition, because strain-counterstrain therapy is a very gentle approach to manual therapy, it can be an especially beneficial physical therapy treatment for patients such as children, people with chronic conditions, and the elderly.

How strain-counterstrain therapy can benefit people with musculoskeletal injuries and chronic conditions

Strain-counterstrain therapy can be useful for many different injuries and issues, but due to the gentleness of the method, it may be especially helpful for people with musculoskeletal injuries (MSKIs) and chronic conditions.

MSKIs are soft tissue injuries that often result from exposure to repetitive motion, force, vibration or awkward positions. It can result from sudden exposure like a car accident or other injury. It can also be due to sustained exposure over a period of time, such as if you work at a manual labor job. In both of these cases, the muscles may have experienced significant strain and trauma, making more intensive physical therapy exercises too challenging. 

In chronic conditions, the patient often deals with continual or recurring pain and discomfort. This can deter them from moving the affected area and make it much more difficult to perform typical physical therapy exercises. They may also deal with muscle weakness in general because their pain prevents them from performing daily activities.

In both of these cases, strain-counterstrain therapy is a gentle treatment that can be performed regardless of the patient’s ability to move their muscles properly on their own. This way, they can begin to heal the affected muscles without adding more stress to the weak or injured areas of their body.

Why you should consider strain-counterstrain therapy

Physical therapy has many different treatments and methods to help you on your journey to regain your mobility and decrease your pain. Whatever condition you are dealing with, your physical therapist can work with you to develop a unique treatment plan that works for your body and current physical abilities. 

Strain-counterstrain therapy may be a great first step in physical therapy that can help you regain your quality of life. Call us or request an appointment today to take the first step toward healing your body.