A brief history of NKT
Neuro Kinetic Therapy is a completely new concept in bodywork. It is based on a chiropractic technique called Applied Kinesiology, and the Touch for Health approach to holistic wellness. If you are familiar with these modailites, think about crossing thiem with the level of detail and expertise you might expect in a physical therapy setting, and you might have a pretty good idea about the kind of work we do.
With Applied Kinesiology, the practitioner uses generalized muscle testing to gauge the client’s body’s reaction to various substances, ideas, etc. A common muscle test is to have the client hold an arm out in front of their body and try to hold it up as the practitioner gently tries to press it down. If the client is exposed to a substance that they are allergic to, for example, the client will have difficulty resisting the practitioner’s pressure, showing a “weakness”, and suggesting that the client’s body has an adverse reaction to that substance. If the client has no adverse reaction to the substance, they will be able to effortlessly resist the pressure, testing “strong”.
There has been some skepticism in the scientific community about how accurate this form of diagnosis is, and exactly what can be ascertained from it, but it did get some people thinking.
Twenty-five years ago, David Weinstock, a veteran bodyworker in Northern California, got curious about how muscle testing worked and started to explore it in more detail. Using the very specific muscle testing taught to physical therapists as a starting point, he made some interesting and useful discoveries.
What he found
He found that even when a client tested “strong” in a generalized test, there would be certain individual, specific muscle tests that would test “weak”. This was particularly the case in areas of the body where there had been a trauma or where there was pain or discomfort. He also found that some individual muscles tested “strong” initially, but then tested “weak” immediately after the client used some other muscle. These weaknesses even showed up well after the client’s body should have healed in the area of the past trauma.
This discovery led to his realization that the client’s body was actually shutting down, or inhibiting certain muscles, and forcing other muscles to work overtime to compensate for those inhibited muscles. In short, the body created compensation patterns.
Combining these discoveries with a basic knowledge of the human neural system led to David's realization that these compensation patterns were being stored in the cerebellum – the part of your brain that serves as the body’s control center for all motor skills.
Your body’s motor control center – the Cerebellum
For the purposes of understanding this process, think of the cerebellum as the central switchboard controlling every muscle in your body. It is connected to each of your muscles via the somatic nervous system – sort of like control wires. Your cerebellum is where your body stores the information necessary to perform complex actions easily and naturally.
For example, when you pick up a glass of water and take a sip, you don’t have to consciously control the individual muscles that lift your arm up, extend it to the glass, grasp the glass without breaking or dropping it, lift the glass directly to your lips and tip it to the precise level where the water reaches the top of the glass. You just do it.
Your cerebellum takes care of a variety of complex tasks automatically on your behalf – walking, balancing, standing up straight, hitting a baseball, holding a child, etc. These are all learned behaviors – things that you practiced and learned over time. These behaviors are sort of like a computer program that your body automatically executes.
Sometimes things happen to you that cause your body to protect itself – accidents, pain, and overwork are good examples. In response to these stimuli, your body creates a new program, or a compensation pattern. These patterns are exactly what your body needs to create in order to protect itself from that trauma. The problem is that your body has no mechanism to let go of the compensation pattern when it is no longer needed.
What Are Some Examples of Compensation Patterns?
At this point it would be useful to illustrate some common compensation patterns and how and why your body might create them.
Your body might create a compensation pattern:
Creating these compensation patterns are exactly what we need and want our bodies to do at those times of trauma. Your neck is injured, but still intact. You avoid injuring your knee any further. Your personal trainer pats you on the butt and says “Nice work!” and you dance like an idiot at the top of the hill while singing the “Rocky” theme song.
Why are compensation patterns a problem?
As I mentioned earlier, your body has no mechanism to let go of compensation patterns that you no longer need. Long after the trauma has passed, your body continues to over-use the bracing muscles that it relied on during the trauma, and continues to inhibit the muscles that were shut down. This creates a vicious cycle: The inhibited muscles actually start to weaken from lack of use, causing you to use the bracing muscles even more. Eventually, the bracing muscles simply stay tight all the time, lose their ability to fire efficiently, and more notably, they hurt.
For a good analogy, let's go back to the concept that the cerebellum is like a computer and control center, and that the somatic nervous system is like the wires that the cerebellum uses to control the muscles. When a compensation pattern is active, it is as if the body is cross-wired. When you try to use an inhibited muscle, the compensation pattern causes the wrong wire to light up, activating the wrong (over-worked) muscle.
The overworked muscles that are part of the compensation pattern are usually what people recognize as muscular tension. Usually, for muscular tension, we go and get a massage. But have you ever noticed that all too often the pain returns the next day, the next hour, or even within minutes, assuming the massage even helped it go away in the first place? While a massage may have relaxed your tight muscles for a time, it did not look for or treat the underlying causes for those tight muscles – the compensation patterns.
How does NKT work to treat those compensation patterns?
As David experimented with the muscle testing and started to recognize some common compensation patterns, he also noticed that it was possible to retrain their clients’ bodies to remove these patterns; in essence, he could reprogram them at the neural control level.
Once the NKT practitioner has used muscle testing to find and map out the compensation pattern, there are two steps to correcting it.
First, the practitioner must alert the client’s body to the problem. This happens automatically every time the client fails a muscle test. Our bodies are designed to be able to fire any muscle at any time. When we are unable to do so (in this case because the NKT practitioner has found and activated a compensation pattern in the client’s body), something in your cerebellum registers this as a problem and it goes into a learning mode. This gives the practitioner a few minutes to show the client’s body how to access the correct muscle.
In this window of opportunity, the NKT practitioner now finds a way to relax the bracing muscle – both massaging and stretching it will work. Once that muscle is in a relaxed state, the practitioner goes back and re-tests the “weak” muscle. Once again, the client’s body, still being cross-wired, tries to activate the bracing muscle. However, since that muscle is now in a relaxed state, it is a couple of nano-seconds slow to respond. During that delay, the client’s body, still in that learning mode from having failed the muscle test earlier, bypasses the now relaxed muscle and it tries a new connection to another muscle – the correct one. This is essentially the reverse of the process in which the compensation pattern was created in the first place.
Suddenly, the formerly weak muscle now has an uninhibited, working connection to the cerebellum, and it fires cleanly, resulting in a “strong” muscle test. With this muscle now working, the body locks in the new way of performing that action, and falls back out of learning mode.
The client’s body is now rid of the compensation pattern, the overworked muscle is no longer called upon so much and can relax, and the inhibited muscle now fires cleanly. The pain relief, restored function and changes to the body that result can be extraordinary.