“Let your proprioceptors do the talking” for best massage results

26 March 2016

If anyone asked me what is my overall philosophy for successful remedial massage, I’d have to say, “I take account of your opposites and I let your proprioceptors do the talking!”

Opposites are important because every muscle has an opposing muscle. Opposites also apply to sides of the body – left v right, front v back, up v down and in v out. Pain in a particular area is often the result of a problem – tightness, weakness, trauma or inflammation – in the opposite muscles or side of the body.

Proprioceptors? They are neurotransmitters, like nerve terminals, that constantly send messages to and from your brain about your body’s balance, position and movement.

Firstly, a bit more about proprioceptors.

In effect, they act like the sensors feeding information to the gyroscopes on an aircraft. The gyros then constantly feed information into the plane’s various systems to help keep it stable and make necessary adjustments to control surfaces, speeds and other aspects to keep it in level flight and when turning, climbing, descending, etc.

Similarly with the body, the brain gets information from proprioceptors then sends out the nerve signals to keep making muscular and postural adjustments for when we are walking, running, jogging, climbing, bending, twisting, lifting, standing, sleeping, etc.

Every muscle and joint in the body plus the middle ear has proprioceptors. They are part of a “package” that also includes the muscle spindle and the Golgi organ (also known as the Golgi tendon).

The spindle is the part of the muscle that tells it to contract, and the Golgi tendon tells it to relax or release.

In effect, when muscles contract, the muscle spindles send off a signal to the brain via the nerves, and the brain sends back a message via the nerves to the Golgi tendon in the opposite muscles to instruct those muscles to relax.

As all this is happening, the proprioceptors are sending signals back to the brain on the new status of the muscles, so the brain can instruct other muscles in the body that are interacting with them to compensate accordingly.

For example, the Gluteus Maximus and Hamstring muscles extend the hip. So if Hamstrings are tight, they will also have an impact on the Gluteus. But if the Hamstrings are loosened by massage, the proprioceptors will begin activating responses leading to compensatory effects in the Gluteus.

So some of the work of rebalancing the Gluteus has already been started by the time the therapist gets to that area.

In other words, activating the proprioceptors in the right sequence creates a very beneficial chain or ripple effect right through the body.

Physical therapists who actually bother to apply this information to their treatments and “let the proprioceptors do the talking,” rather than just focusing all the treatment where someone says they are sore, will always get better, longer-lasting results.

How often has your physical therapist – massage or otherwise – just worked where you said you were sore? They are usually missing the point!

Common muscle pain in a particular area (not as a result of specific injury, surgery or other trauma) more often than not is a SYMPTOM of a problem. It’s not the problem itself. The real problem is usually in the opposing muscles or side of the body.

So, for example, if someone is sore in the lower back right side, it’s more than likely there are tighter muscles on the lower back left side. And similarly, if you think about the up/down aspects, UP above the sore area in the right side lower back you will usually find tight muscles in the right shoulder blade area. DOWN below, the Gluteus (buttocks) muscles will be tighter on the right side.

One reason is usually that muscle imbalances in the legs have contributed to the right hip pulling low and left hip high. (Muscle imbalances in the shoulder blade area, neck and chest will also be contributing, but that’s another story!)

To address the hip problem quickly and effectively, it’s therefore necessary to start by massaging the leg muscles, but taking into account there will be differences between the inside and outside, and front and back, muscles of both legs. The massage starts a ripple effect from their proprioceptors to begin rebalancing the hip muscles that then impacts on the tighter muscles in the lower back left side.

These effects continue throughout the body. Competent, experienced therapists take all this opposite and proprioceptive activity into account to give you the best treatment.

I can guarantee that’s what I’ll give you.

David Hall ©


Townsville Massage and overall musculoskeletal therapist based in Mount Louisa and specialising in Remedial Massage for all types of muscle and/or joint aches and pains, headaches and migraines as well as preparing for and recovering from sporting, exercise and other fitness activities. I guarantee the best value for money remedial massage in Townsville. CALL NOW on (07) 4774 6973 or CALL/TEXT 0438 774 819 to book an appointment.