Primal Reflex Release Technique (PRRT) is a hands-on treatment approach that has changed a lot of beliefs about pain and dysfunction. John Iams, a Physical Therapist out of California, developed the technique after nearly 4 decades of research. The theoretical basis of this approach is that certain primal muscle reflexes become activated when we are in pain or when we experience a traumatic event. This over stimulation of the reflexes maintains pain and keeps painful patterns active. The treatment of these reflexes is effective in treating about 80% of people with painful conditions.
PRRT assesses these reflexes and then treats them by dampening down the reflex response that the body is experiencing. For example, if a muscle is tight, it could be that the tightness is a symptom of an over-sensitive reflex signaling the muscle to remain contracted. The PRRT practitioner aims to remove the reflexive response to the muscle as opposed to merely stretching, massaging, manipulating, or putting a hot pack on it. Releasing this muscle can help not only the affected muscle and the joints they attach to, but areas distant to the treated muscle as well. Clients are often surprised that pain in one area of the body can be removed by working on reflexes in another. Even more surprising is that sometimes only two or three sessions can provide permanent relief to problems that have persisted for years or even decades.
What makes PRRT unique is its ability to assess and treat a client in a matter of just minutes and usually increase range and speed of motion along with decreasing pain. Often clients experience nearly a 50% improvement on just their first session. If a client hasn’t experienced some improvement within the first couple of sessions, PRRT is not recommended, as it’s not that person’s solution to their problem. We often say that PRRT either succeeds fast or it fails fast. You won’t be wasting a lot of time, energy and money over weeks and months waiting to see if you will get pain relief.
Rick Stockwell, PT/ATC is the only one in the four corners area utilizing this technique. He has been studying with John Iams for the last 4 years and is one of only 200 people worldwide trained at the advanced level. The next closest advanced trained practitioner is in the Denver area. He has seen amazing results with the technique and it has completely changed the way he looks at pain and dysfunction.
Here is how PRRT works:
Humans are gifted at birth with many primal reflexes that help us to survive. Most of these reflexes disappear after a few months. The startle and withdrawal reflex are a couple of the reflexes that remain. The startle reflex is very common in people who have experienced some form of trauma, like a car accident. We all know someone who startles easily. The withdrawal reflex occurs when you accidentally step on something sharp. Without thinking about it, you will “reflexively” pick up that foot and transfer your weight to the other side. This is a “normal” protective reflex! These two reflexes work in concert with the autonomic nervous system, which automatically controls certain bodily functions, like breathing, blinking, salivation, digestion etc.
Immediately after an injury, there is a withdrawal that occurs, possibly with a facial grimace and a groan, as we reflexively grab and/or rub the painful area. In many people who are injured, muscles stay in a state of reflex muscle spasm, sometimes for years. So now the startle and/or withdrawal reflex become abnormal. When these abnormal reflex muscle spasms are examined, increased tension will be felt in the muscles and clients may withdraw away from the pressure, grimace, groan or grab, just like they did when they were injured. When this happens, we say that the person is an “upregulated” state.
When a client comes to our office in pain, we examine him or her from head to toe in an attempt to find areas that are upregulated. The examination only takes a couple of minutes, but it is extremely revealing and may be the most thorough physical therapy examination you have ever experienced. These upregulated areas are obvious, because the client will withdraw away from the practitioner’s palpation (touch). It is important to know that an upregulated area has the potential to cause pain and discomfort in multiple locations throughout the body.
The PRRT practitioner will then treat the painful area in a way that is similar to a doctor testing your knee jerk with a reflex hammer. This type of treatment can be done anywhere on the body, and significant pain relief can be experienced in a few treatments as opposed to weeks and months. Overall, the PRRT evaluation and treatment is gentle, non-invasive and it can be extremely effective.
Another wonderful feature of PRRT is that when it fails, it fails fast. This means we will know within the first couple of visits whether or not PRRT will work for you. Then you are not wasting a lot of time, energy and money over weeks and months waiting to see if you will get relief. Remember, with this technique, we expect changes fast. Many patients have experienced immediate relief.