What is NeuroKinetic Therapy

“I want to exercise, but it hurts when I move!”

When it comes to pain and discomfort, there is no longer any need to “deal with it.” NeuroKinetic Therapy is a powerful movement assessment used as both diagnostic tool and rehabilitative technique. It is incredibly effective for eliminating pain; improving walking/running gait, correcting poor posture, creating a pain and injury prevention program, and enhancing athletic performance. For many, treatment can result in nearly instantaneous relief from pain and discomfort.

The Art of Fitness is your local NeuroKinetic Therapy Austin TX therapist

Instead of chasing the symptoms of muscle tightness, soreness, and/or pain which can become a guessing game; NKT identifies the root cause of pain through direct assessment of the relationship of painful compensation patterns in the nervous and musculoskeletal systems.

In essence, an NKT movement assessment is asking the body:

“why does it hurt when you move this way? What do we need to do differently to make this movement non painful?”

The answers to these questions determine the specific patterns of imbalance, dysfunction, and compensation that are leading to pain and injury.

During an NKT session, we will assess the specific movements that are causing pain or dysfunction. As an example:

Your knee hurts when you run

A person with knee pain seeks Neurokinetic Therapy Austin relief.

We will analyze your walking/running gait as well as assess the function of specific muscles involved in a running from head to toe. Much of this work is done on the table. We perform hands on manual muscle tests to determine the compensation patterns i.e. which muscles are overworking — compensating, and which ones are underworking — inhibited. Once these compensation patterns are determined, we perform a Hands on massage therapy release on the compensating muscle and immediately strengthen the inhibited muscle with a corrective exercise to reprogram the nervous and musculoskeletal systems. We will then reassess the original movement, walking and running, for improvement. Once a primary compensation pattern is determined, you receive a daily personalized exercise program. The daily exercise program reprograms, trains, and reinforces this renewed efficient pain free movement as a permanent habit. You build a renewed way of moving and being in the world… Pain free.

If you ever experience pain or discomfort, perhaps caused by an acute injury or from simply living life, email or call The Art of Fitness and schedule a free NeuroKinetic Therapy Austin consultation. We will work together to craft an individualized set of treatments for you, so that you can eliminate pain,  feel better, move better, and live better.

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If you’re interested in learning more about NKT, check out these articles: Stop Chasing Pain and What is NeuroKinetic Therapy.

My NeuroKinetic Therapy (NKT) Experience

In my heart as an NKT Movement Therapist, I want to help my clients move better, live more fully, and thrive. This means helping them change the way they move in life and through life on fundamental levels. Until this past year, however, I often felt as if something were missing from my practice. Clients would leave my office after a massage therapy session feeling great, but return within a couple weeks with the exact same pain complaint. Something was missing.

Link of chain to show that NKT is the missing linkNKT- The missing link

I took NeuroKinetic Therapy (NKT) Level One in June 2013. I was completely wowed by this modality of movement assessment and therapy. I immediately realized that NKT was the missing link in my practice with clients. Integrating it into my existing work, however, has not always been an easy or elegant process.

After the Level One workshop I felt totally overwhelmed. NKT completely crushed any concept I had about my identity as a therapist and what I had been offering to my clients. Don’t get me wrong–this was a good thing. It meant I was being pushed to grow, which I appreciated, but as with any new challenge it was not an easy pill to swallow. For the first three months, I felt depressed. My ego was crushed. I felt like the dumbest kid in the class. It brought up insecurity, frustration, and fear. In essence I was being pushed to let go of an old self-created concept of my Self and embrace something entirely new.  This was scary.

Something I understood early on was that I was learning something entirely new and foreign. When I could surrender the ego expectation that I should immediately be an expert, I realized that “of course” I wouldn’t be very good at this at first. Like a toddler learning to walk, I had to invest my time and patience practicing, studying, experiencing, and learning.

This is what I did
1. I sent out an email to my friends offering free sessions. I knew for the first several months I could not practice this new modality in a paid session. At the time, NKT was a skill I did not own…yet. As much as I needed the practical experience of integrating NKT into my work, I also needed the confidence in my own ability before I could fully give to paying clients. So I offered 6-10 hours of NKT free each week, and continued to maintain my regular practice. This gave me the freedom to completely suck. I could experiment! If I got stuck or had a question, I could use my book or computer as a resource.

2. I found a mentor and a study group. I hadn’t even left New York before I sent Austin-based Jedi Master NKT therapist Joseph Schwartz an email asking to meet. Within a couple of weeks we started a monthly study group with some other new NKT practitioners in the area. Joseph has proven to be a fantastic mentor; he has about 20 years of experience working with NKT and is one of the most intelligent movement/bodywork therapists I’ve ever met. It has been years since I worked with a mentor, and to have one now is such an amazing gift. Studying with another, more experienced practitioner is invaluable and has furthered my learning process at a tremendous speed.

Body in motion NKT.

3. I started studying anatomy. (Again.) I quickly realized that what I knew about anatomy–more specifically, movement anatomy–was grossly inadequate. I bought new books and apps on anatomy and movement for my phone and Ipad. Besides using these regularly as a learning resource for myself, I now use them as a teaching tool with clients as well. The greatest gift I’ve received from NKT is a reinvigorated love and desire for learning.

4. I went to the Level Two workshop within three months of Level One even though I wasn’t 100% confident in my Level One material. This was huge. Level One is an introduction to NKT. It’s kind of like learning to write by focusing on just the alphabet. Level Two really brings NKT into a larger movement perspective. For me it was going from the alphabet to complex sentence structure, paragraphs, outlines, and essays. Taking Level Two brought the Level One material into greater context. I came back from the Level Two workshop with the confidence to start truly and fully integrating NKT into my practice.

5. I assisted a Level One workshop. The first workshop I took was taught by the founder of NKT, David Weinstock. The second Level One workshop was taught by Dr. Perry Nickelston of Stop Chasing Pain. Taking the workshop a second time was great on many levels. First and foremost, it was easier to digest the material since I was already familiar with it. Also, when you assist you get to teach, and teaching is a wonderful way of learning on a deeper level. The best part of re-taking the workshop was the opportunity to learn from a different teacher. Each has their individual way of instructing, and I learned a ton from both. With each workshop, it was as though I was able to climb inside their head and witness their NKT thought process in action.

Picture by fromzertohero at http://fromzerotohero.deviantart.com/ NKT

What I’ve learned along the way
NKT is a door into another world. It is less a modality in and of its own and more of a connecting link between the worlds of movement assessment, traditional physical/manual therapy and movement therapy. It is not teaching an isolated paradigm, but providing a way to shift all former paradigms into a new wholly integrated therapeutic movement outlook. You don’t become a better movement therapist by learning NKT. It is not simply another modality of treatment to add to an existing practice. You become a better movement therapist by integrating what you already know with everything you continue to learn through the lens of NKT. It is this aspect of NKT which has reignited my passion for learning.

This concept is what most excites me. I have been shown a door into a new level of learning, and I feel challenged to learn. I have never felt so passionate about what I do. In the past seven months since the Level One workshop, I have learned more than in my previous 15 years of practice, and I’m a smart guy. This stuff is that powerful. And I’m still barely cracking the surface. (That’s exciting!)

My suggestions for new NKT therapists

1. Practice, Practice, Practice! Don’t introduce NKT to your clients until you have the confidence that you can provide a valuable service by integrating this specialized skill. For some this will take weeks. For others, months. If you introduce something new that you don’t fully know, you will lack the confidence to do it well out of fear of failure. You need sessions in which you can give yourself the freedom to be a complete failure at NKT. This is the only way you will become successful. A session with a paying client is never a good time to practice. They pay you for a skill, and like me at the beginning, NKT is not a skill you own…Yet. Take the time to get there. Offer free sessions to your friends and family. Get as many hours in each week as you possibly can.

2a. Join a study group. Find others in your area who have begun to study NKT, or who have been practicing for a while. If you live in the boonies, drive for hours to get to one. If all else fails, find an online study group. This is where you will refine your testing and touch skills. During the sessions, ask questions of each other, get worked on, make mistakes. Most importantly, learn.

2b. Find a mentor and be a willing student. The most successful people practicing NKT, such as Thomas Wells, Perry Nickelston, Kathy Dooley, Joseph Schwartz, David Weinstock, etc are still students. They may be NKT teachers and instructors, but they are still actively learning students as well. Without a mentor your potential to grow is stunted. Find a mentor to study under, and trade sessions with them whenever possible. Pay for their sessions if you have to. Each week, I drive 45 minutes out of town to work with my mentor. We trade sessions and then do movement work. I walk into his place like a sponge ready to absorb; I leave feeling like I’ve doubled my knowledge and understanding.

2c. Re-educate yourself with anatomy and movement. This is what NKT is all about — helping your clients feel and move better. If you don’t understand what healthy movement is supposed to look like, it’s going to be hard to teach it to your clients.

3. Take the Level Two workshop. This is an investment in your growth as a professional. If you follow the above advice, by the time you get to the Level Two workshop you will be ready enough. Things will begin to connect.

4. Take the Level One workshop again. If you get your certification after your first Level One, you can assist subsequent workshops for FREE. (Minus the cost of your transport and lodging of course.) Taking it a second time will allow you to absorb so much information that you missed the first time–when you perhaps didn’t even realize you were missing anything.

Illustration of a light bulb NKT

Where I’m at now
As I explained previously, my first three months after NKT Level One were rough. I felt like I was fumbling around in the dark quite a bit. But somewhere along the way things began to shift. Between practicing, study groups, working with my mentor, and taking additional workshops, lightbulbs began to turn on. Things started coming slowly together, connections began forming. Once I started working with clients, the shifts came even faster. Over the past several months, NeuroKinetic Therapy has completely evolved my practice. I now offer it almost exclusively and have seen some amazing results with clients suffering from long term chronic pain.

This was my experience learning NKT over the past several months. I hope you find these explanations and suggestions helpful in the process of discovering NKT for yourself.

Don't Chase Pain, Break Free!

Thinking man statue. What is Neurokinetic Therapy.What is NeuroKinetic Therapy?

A little more than fifteen years ago, I found myself sitting on a bench in a gym thinking about what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I was recovering and rehabbing from a second knee reconstruction and just a few months away from being discharged from the Navy. I had no idea what I wanted to do. Then it hit me like a brick: I wanted to help people feel better, move better. I wanted to help people live better.

Over the years, this key moment has remained present with me as I re-educate and re-invent what I do, in a continual process of re-investing myself in my passion. How can I best serve? How can I provide the best possible support to my clients?

These questions still continue to shape me as a movement therapist, and shape my practice as it evolves to best meet the needs of each individual client. I have graduated from being simply a massage therapist or personal trainer primarily focused on the short term physical fitness goals of my clients. I am now also concerned with helping them heal and recover from the chronic pain and injury while improving their long term movement quality. A massage therapy license has allowed me to do hands on massage therapy targeted treatments, and I am a strong advocate for self-massage with a foam roller. However, I have noticed that hands on massage therapy is frequently not enough. Some people experience short term relief from pain, but a few days later, it returns. Massage then often becomes a tool for pain relief, rather than for actual healing, and clients accept that pain and discomfort are a normal part of a life well lived. Have you ever said “My hip/shoulder/back/neck/foot is aching again, but I can deal with it for a few more days. Time to schedule another massage”?

I was looking for a more profound modality to help my clients truly heal. This is when I began to read the work of some of the top coaches and therapists in the world. (Charlie Weingroff, Dr Perry Nickelston of Stop Chasing Pain, and David Weinstock) Advice such as “don’t chase pain” and “pain is telling you there is a problem, not where the problem is coming from” was followed by discussion on how to assess compensation patterns through hands on manual muscle testing and movement assessment, which tells a therapist where and how to treat the root cause of the pain, rather than the pain itself. I was directed to the page What is NeuroKinetic Therapy, and I knew immediately that this was the work I had been seeking–the work that will best help my clients recover.

When it comes to pain and discomfort, there is no longer any need to “deal with it.

With that said, I will do my best to explain the function and application of NeuroKinetic Therapy.  However, words do not do it justice. If you ever experience pain or discomfort, perhaps caused by an acute injury or perhaps from simply living life, I encourage you to call and schedule a free consultation. We will work together to craft an individualized set of treatments for you, so that you can feel better, move better, live better.

What is NeuroKinetic Therapy™ (NKT)

Manual muscle test on client's elbow. What is Neurokinetic Therapy.NeuroKinetic Therapy™ is a sophisticated form of movement therapy that goes beyond the treatment of symptoms and instead focuses on the root causes of pain and dysfunction. It can be used as both an assessment tool and rehabilitative technique for chronic pain and injury. It is very effective for treatment of pain in the low back, neck, shoulders, knees, hips, and feet; NKT is also used for improving walking/running gait, correcting poor posture, preventing injury, and enhancing athletic performance. For many, treatment can result in nearly instantaneous relief from pain and discomfort.

Through a series of hands-on muscle tests, a certified NKT professional can assess movement systems to determine the specific patterns of imbalance, dysfunction, and compensation. This problem-solving technique can quickly zero in on the muscle(s) responsible for pain and injury. The therapist can then utilize massage therapy, foam roller therapy, stretching, or other therapy modality to release the appropriate muscles tissues; and corrective exercises to strengthen imbalances.  The result is quick, long lasting relief from pain, stiffness and dysfunction, and overall improved movement quality and performance.

NKT bypasses treatment of symptoms and is instead used to identify and correct the root cause of dysfunctional motor patterns through direct assessment of the relationship between your nervous and musculoskeletal systems. This relationship takes place through the Motor Control Center (MCC), which is crucial for interacting with the world by determining movement as well as for establishing balance and stability.

Old school switchboard operator. What is Neurokinetic Therapy.The MCC in action

Think of the MCC as a switchboard operator. Except instead of a person on the other end of the line, you get a movement action from your muscles–your body’s engines. The MCC receives a call to move and determines the appropriate combination of muscles and forces to generate the desired action. This process requires the synchronized and choreographed interaction of the nervous system (the phone lines) and the muscle system (the movement engine).

Say you want to perform a movement such as getting out of a chair. This message passes through the switchboard operator (MCC) which relays the message through the phone lines (your nervous system) to the engine (your muscles). In this message the MCC command directs which muscles to fire and which to relax, or brace. It determines the sequencing, speed, and power needed from each muscle in order to complete the desired action.

Illustration of man in pain in front of the computer. What is Neurokinetic Therapy.When you have trauma caused by an accident, injury, repetitive use, over-training, or poor ergonomics, the pain and/or instability disrupts natural movement patterns, causing temporary dysfunction. The MCC responds to the dysfunction by rerouting the signal to other muscles and shutting down the injured muscle, thus creating a compensation pattern. Muscles that normally perform other uses are now facilitated to make up for the injured, inhibited muscle(s). In the short term, this helps protect your body from further injury and allows the injured tissue time to heal.

However, problems arise when the compensation remains well after the injured tissue has healed. Over time, the compensation becomes hard-wired into the nervous system, which can lead to persistent muscular soreness and stiffness, loss of strength and function, and eventually to more serious bio-mechanical issues.

This is bad. Beyond the fact that it causes pain and discomfort, why is it bad? Because the muscle that is now compensating (the facilitated muscle) already had a job responsibility–now it has two. This is akin to you having to do your job and your coworker’s job. You would be working twice as hard, wouldn’t be as effective at either job, and most likely you’d also be a little (or a lot!) cranky. This is what happens to your muscles. When a muscle becomes cranky, it affects movement quality and often causes pain.

Southpark image. What is Neurokinetic Therapy.Things get even worse when you apply a strength and conditioning program to a dysfunctional movement pattern. When you add load and repetition, the movement patterns you train become stronger over time. Add load and repetition to a dysfunctional movement pattern, and you strengthen the dysfunction. When it comes to moving without pain and injury, practicing high quality movement is fundamental. Practice doesn’t make perfect–practice makes permanent! Perfect practice will help you own high movement quality. When you are dealing with a motor control injury, a strength training program by itself probably won’t correct it. If anything, you risk hard-wiring the dysfunction even more deeply into your motor control system. Unfortunately, this is a cycle I see many athletes repeating: coming off an injury, slowly adding load and intensity back into their training program, and–boom!–another injury setback. It is a vicious cycle, and can be frustrating and depressing.

There is an option to break free of this cycle.

NKT can be a powerful tool to help heal from an acute injury, reduce your risk of pain and injury, break from the injury cycle, and get you moving and feeling better. NKT is quick, cost effective treatment for both rehabilitation and prevention of injuries.

Will NeuroKinetic Therapy be helpful for you? Every case is different and every person responds differently to therapy. NKT is far and away the most profound therapy I have come across. The only true way to understand this work is to experience it.

Ready to ask what is NeuroKinetic Therapy and learn how NKT can help you? Leave a comment below. If you’re in Austin, Texas you can schedule a consultation online here.

Who can benefit from NKT?

  • Runners
  • Triathletes
  • Weight Lifters

Those who enjoy:

  • Tennis
  • Golf
  • Football
  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Dancing
  • Body Building
  • Volleyball
  • Soccer
  • Swimming
  • Rock Climbing
  • Biking
  • And so on…

Jesse James Retherford of The Art of Fitness is a Movement Therapist who offers NeuroKinetic Therapy, movement assessment, hands on massage therapy, personal training and coaching, and personalized exercise programs to help his clients eliminate pain, create a pain and injury prevention plan, move better, and tackle all of their life goals. Click here to learn more about What is NeuroKinetic Therapy.

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