The original work of the Latvian, Stanley Lief, in the early 20th century was based on the collected ideas of Varma and ayurvedic medicine and combined with American chiropractry and osteopathy. After moving to Europe in 1925, Lief developed Neuromuscular Therapy (NMT), along with his cousin Boris Chaitow (1940s), over many years. They emphasised palpatory sensitivity to assess the state of the soft tissue.
Lief’s work was taken up by his son, Peter, and later by the osteopath Leon Chaitow in Europe. They developed neuromuscular techniques which were mainly used by osteopaths and occasionally by physiotherapists.
In the USA, Raymond Nimmo, a chiropractor graduating from the Palmer School in 1931, had developed a receptor-tonus theory based on hypertonicity of soft tissue. He questioned the chiropractic ‘bone out of place’ paradigm. To quote him “Didn’t they ever consider that the bones are where the muscles and ligaments put them?” He came across the trigger point theories of Janet Travell, and noted that these noxious points coincided with his own soft tissue findings. Paul St. John studied under Nimmo and published manuals and ran courses throughout the USA under the heading St John Neuromuscular Therapy. In turn, Judith DeLany trained under St John in the 1980’s, before she developed her own off-shoot called NMT American Version.
In the last decade DeLany and Leon Chaitow have combined their ideas to write the seminal two volume texts called “Clinical Application of Neuromuscular Techniques”. Both the European and American versions have a similar theoretical base. The differences lie in the treatment approach. European NMT has a set routine and treats anything it finds along the way. American NMT treats the client according to the preliminary findings found in a thorough pre-treatment assessment. Both use specific manual techniques to identify and treat tension, ischaemia, trigger points, nerve impingement and postural dysfunction.
St. John version NMT was brought to New Zealand in the mid 1990s, by the American Leon Botello, and his teacher John Barrera from Corpus Christi. Stewart Wild was the first graduate in NMT from the NZ College of Massage in Auckland. He began teaching NMT in 1998.
Modern Neuromuscular Therapy is now a hybrid of many different therapies; therapeutic massage, myofascial release (MFR), manual trigger point therapy (MTT), positional release (PRT), muscle energy technique (MET), connective tissue massage (CTM) and may even incorporate lymphatic drainage (MLD), visceral manipulation (VM), and neural mobilisations. To reinforce the treatment gains homecare activities (HCA) are often recommended.
This whole body approach emphasises not only the biomechanical aspects of the body (physical damage and dysfunction) but also the biochemical and psycho-social components. Thus, aspects of mental, social, emotional and environment issues are combined with nutritional, physical fitness, lifestyle advice and stress reduction for total structural and functional balance, leading to full health and well-being.