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What is Total Motion Release?


Total Motion Release (TMR): This one is hard to explain than to just show you, so bear with me. TMR comes from a therapist in North Carolina, Tom Dalonzo-Baker PT, who found that he was getting much better movement out of people when he was stretching the OPPOSITE side of what was tight. Say what? That can’t be true, right? Well, you have to try this on yourself, because my talking isn’t going to convince you. I will show you how to PROPERLY do this in the clinic so you know what to do, then you can do this for a home program.

With TMR, often I will see an area of tightness improve by at least 50%, sometimes more, even after only a couple minutes of stretching. It is really amazing. Other times, it may not, which means that I need to stretch even more on the good side with modifications, or stretch somewhere else in the body because another place is restricted that is not letting things move.

A great example of this is a tight hip restricting left shoulder motion.

I have the person stretch their right arm raise to release the left shoulder, but the left shoulder only improves slightly. Then, once I have the person stretch at the hips, then the shoulder goes right up.

This is based on the connective tissue model called “Tensegrity”, mentioned in the Anatomy Trains book by Thomas Meyers and Myofascial Release, by John Barnes. Basically all muscles, joints, ligaments, organs, etc. are completely encased in connective tissue, which has cross-links like a knit sweater. If you’re wearing the sweater and pull on the bottom of it towards your feet, it will be harder to lift up your arm. This example shows how tightness in a hip or back can affect a shoulder.

In TMR, by stretching the GOOD side, it unwinds the tight areas that are wound like a tight coil around the restricted tissue. This concept comes from a widely practiced technique called Strain Counterstain, which is an effective tool to improve mobility and function. When we stretch the tight side, it winds tighter to protect it, and little to no improvement in motion occurs. There is also something neurologic going on when you stretch the good side—you inhibit the areas that are overactive. To simplify, when one side works, the opposite side relaxes—it’s just how we’re wired.

The big keys to TMR are persistence and awareness. By really going after your asymmetries and stretching the GOOD side ONLY, things eventually get much better. I tell my patients to avoid any temptation to stretch the tight side for the reasons I give above. If you do TMR, it will definitely help you, it is just a matter of how much!

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