Neural manipulation, developed by French osteopaths Alain Croibier and Jean-Pierre Barral, works to increase the mobility of nerves, which is vital for their optimal function. It uses precise and very sensitive touch as well as some body movements to influence the structures around the nerve and the nerve itself. We generally contact and lightly stretch the nerve to stimulate it to release itself.
Many muscular and fascial tension patterns arise from low-level disruptions of the peripheral nerves or cranial nerves, which can result from an old injury or trauma, long periods of immobility (e.g., in a cast), or overuse. Because the body protects the nerve, the muscle and connective tissue responds by tightening. In these cases very light neural work can release muscles almost immediately. Many joint issues can be positively impacted by neural work.
When a nerve is unable to glide and/or stretch in length, it can become restricted or irritated. Pressure inside and around the nerve increases, and the nerve can feel tight, fibrosed, or buzzy. The restricted area may feel like like a small hard area the size of a grain or rice or a pea (often where the nerve comes out of the muscle) which is often very sensitive. The nerve pathway shows functional interferences (blood supply or electric and/or electromagnetic conductivity).
Many times, neural restrictions at this level are not considered significant by doctors - they're usually not creating the intense, hot, running pain associated with a nerve impingement or muscle wasting associated with nerve damage. But they can create a lot of submedical havoc that affects your quality of life: including low to moderate pain, muscle tension, muscle cramping, lack of muscle coordination, and decrease in the power of the muscle. The pain, stiffness or tension far from where the restriction is. For example, knee and foot pain is often due to neural or visceral issues in the pelvis, When you look at the pathways of the main nerves to the knee, it's no mystery - the nerves to the leg (and to the knee and foot) cross through the pelvis either in the front or back.
Conditions addressed by neural manipulation
Neural work can be beneficial to a wide range of conditions: In my practice some conditions it is helpful for are:
- Joint stiffness, pain, or lack of coordination or mobility in the shoulders, arms, hips, knees, and feet
- Lower back pain & sciatica
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Thoracic outlet syndrome
- Whiplash or neck sprain (after the initial injury has healed)
- Shoulder impingement, tight shoulders
- Results of previous injuries and surgeries (after initial healing)
- TMJ & jaw tension