Lawrence H. Jones, DO
Strain-counterstrain was developed by Lawrence H. Jones, DO over 40 years of clinical practice as an osteopathic physician. He published his first description of this method in 1964. He discovered a phenomenon while working with a patient who had an unusually persistent lower back pain that had been unrelieved by 2 chiropractic physicians over a period of 2 months and by traditional manipulations by Dr. Jones himself. The patient had been unable to find a position to sleep and had not slept for more than a few minutes for the prior 4 months. Dr. Jones decided to spend one treatment searching for a position of comfort so that this patient could at least replicate it at home and get a good night’s sleep. After much trial and error he found a flexed and rotated position which surprisingly, left the patient with no pain. Because the patient had been in severe pain for a long time, Dr. Jones decided to allow him to rest in this position for the remainder of the treatment session. After slowly taking the patient out of this position, much to his surprise, the patient was left pain free and was able to stand straight for the first time in months. Needless to say Dr. Jones was quite surprised and started attempting to understand what he had just witnessed. Over the next 40 years, Dr. Jones developed strain-counterstrain as a result of this discovery.
Strain-counterstrain is a method, during which the therapist locates tender points on the patients body that correspond to areas of dysfunction. Dr. Jones initially and now others have discovered hundreds of potential points that can be tender. Specific tender points correspond to specific joints or muscles that are in need of treatment. The therapist then monitors the tension and level of pain elicited by the tender point as he or she positions the patient into a position of ease or comfort. When this position of ease is found the tender point is no longer tense or tender. By maintaining this position for a minimum of 90 seconds the tension in the tender point and in the corresponding joint or muscle is reduced or cleared. When the patient is slowly returned to a neutral position, the tender point and the corresponding joint or muscle remains pain free with normal tension.
The physiological reason this works is quite interesting. Muscles and joints have proprioceptive nerve endings located in them. These nerve endings are sensitive to pressure, stretch, speed and vibration. When the muscle or joint is in a stretch position or is being stretched, these proprioceptive nerve endings relay this information to the spinal cord and even farther up to the brain. This is how the reflex hammer works. By tapping the patellar ligament, the ligament is stretched quickly. This information is sent to the spinal cord that in turn sends a message back to the quadriceps to contract. This system works fine until it does not turn back down. After injuries, these proprioceptive nerve endings can keep sending information to the spinal cord that the muscle or joint is in a stretch position The spinal cord as a result keeps sending a message back to maintain a high level of contraction. This continues as a viscous cycle.
With Strain-counterstrain the joint or muscle is placed not on stretch but rather on slack. In this way, the proprioceptive nerve endings no longer send information back to the spinal cord. By placing the muscle or joint into a position of ease or comfort the proprioceptive input is turned down .The spinal cord stops sending information to the muscle or joint to contract and subsequently the area relaxes. If the therapist had instead tried to stretch out the muscle or joint the proprioceptive nerve endings would have fired more frequently and as a result the spinal cord would have sent impulses back to maintain an even stronger contraction.
The discovery that Dr. Jones made is truly one of the most remarkable in the history of manual therapy. His work was original and has influenced a great many practitioners.