PRRT is a treatment that stands for Primal Reflex Release Technique. I know this is a cliché, but PRRT is the ultimate nervous system hack. We treat musculoskeletal problems by using the nervous system.
So how does it work?
I tell clients all the time that my treatment approach often sounds like a 3-year-old. I keep asking why. If a client comes in with low back pain, I want to know why. If a muscle is tight, I want to know why. The body does an amazing job of protecting itself. It doesn’t always do such a great job of letting go of those protections once they are no longer needed. One way the body can protect itself is by “splinting” or “guarding”.
Essentially, the nervous system tells the muscle to “tighten up” to limit movement to try to prevent further injury. Assuming that is the case, how effective will stretching be to get that muscle to “loosen up”? This is where we use PRRT. There is a principle in neurology called reciprocal inhibition. Basically, if your brain (nervous system) tells a muscle to contract (for example the biceps), then there is a spinal cord reflex (doesn’t go to the brain) that tells its opposite muscle (in this example the triceps) to relax. So activating the biceps relaxes the triceps. We use light tapping on the tendon to activate the muscle. This is one of the foundations to PRRT. If I know what muscle is tight, all I have to do is figure out what is the opposite muscle (called the antagonist) and activate that muscle.
Life is a contact sport. We are having to deal with problems (injuries) every day that may cause our bodies to protect. Over time, these cumulative protections can become the problem. We can use PRRT to essentially work backward in time and undo these protections that are no longer needed.
These PT Pro Tips are brought to you by our Owner and Elm Grove Therapist, Mark Snyder PT, DPT.
With a strong passion for education, Mark has been a professor for a physical therapy assistant program and has taught continuing education to health care professionals in the US and in Europe. In his spare time, Mark likes to work out and coaches many little league sports.