Townsend Letter The Examiner of Alternative Medicine
Alternative Medicine Conference Calendar
Check recent tables of contents


From the Townsend Letter
November 2007


As the 40 pound steel weight plunged towards my head, I asked,
Can Pain Be Turned Off Instantly by Using Neuromuscular Reflexes?
by Stephen Kaufman, DC

Search this site

Trigger Points Frequently Cause Pain
Areas of reduced circulation in muscles are called trigger points. They are painful when pressed.1-7 They cause or aggravate many types of pain disorders,5-7 including low back pain, sciatica,2,3,17 headache,1 migraine,1 TMJ syndrome,15 neck pain,7 ileotibial band syndrome,7 frozen shoulder,18 some forms of unexplained abdominal pain,10,19 post-surgical pain,20 chronic pelvic pain,21 etc. Cervical and lumbar disc syndrome pain is often caused or aggravated by myofascial trigger points.2,3,13 For our purposes, we call any area a trigger point in muscle, tendon, ligament, or bony prominence that is excessively tender to pressure when compared to the surrounding tissues. This is a much broader use of the term "trigger point" than usual.

Several years ago, I lifted a dumbbell over my head during a workout. The weight was too heavy for me, and my triceps gave out; the dumbbell and my arm plummeted towards the table. By using more weight than I could handle, I had triggered the clasp knife reflex (a.k.a., the Golgi Tendon Organ [GTO] reflex8,9), inhibiting the triceps and making my arm drop. I had neurologically inhibited the muscle, and the dumbbell fell like a… steel weight! If I could discover a way to turn muscles off like this on purpose, I might be able to turn off trigger points and muscular pain as well.

Here's the Big Idea
When my arm collapsed during my workout, I deduced that I'd accidentally discovered how to trigger an inhibitory reflex in my triceps. If I could do that at will on a muscle that had a trigger point, I might be able to eliminate the trigger point.

The GTO Reflex
The GTO reflex protects muscles; it can also be used to turn off a trigger point neurologically, in seconds. When the tension along a muscle becomes too great, the muscle relaxes.8,9 It "lets go." This is a defensive mechanism in that if you pick up too heavy a weight, the motion doesn't tear your arm muscle. It has several names: the inverse myotatic reflex, the clasp knife reflex, or the GTO reflex.8 I reasoned that if I applied a specific force to a muscle with a trigger point, the activation of the GTO/clasp knife reflex would cause a tender trigger point to immediately become less tender when pressed. This might relieve chronic symptoms due to that trigger point. I eventually found a number of reflexes that consistently turn off palpatory pain.

Patients were more excited than I was. They were delighted! Many of those treated were doctors at seminars around the country; their shock and delight at the improvement of chronic pain was recorded on video and is available.

Why Painful Trigger Points Should Not Be Treated Repeatedly, but Eliminated, Using Light Pressure on Targeted Neuromuscular Reflexes
If the correct reflex for a trigger point is initiated, within seconds, the point will no longer be painful when pressed. Often, the patient's symptom associated with that trigger point will clear up as well. Sometimes, the symptom will improve immediately; sometimes, it will resolve after several treatments.

Pain Neutralization Technique™ (PNT) is completely different from previous methods for treating trigger points, e.g., ischemic compression, myofascial release, massage, strain counterstrain, etc. In fact, the aim here is not even to treat a trigger point at all but to eliminate it. PNT does not use mechanical force to treat trigger points, as do other methods, but uses neurological reflexes to turn them off. If the reflex is correct for the involved point, that point will not be tender within a few seconds. The pain will be gone. Patients are consistently amazed that tender areas are immediately pain-free. The techniques are so simple that they're taught on video.

The Three Types of Pain
There are three types of pain:

  • Palpatory pain are areas, often in muscle bellies, that are excessively tender when pressed. They're usually a few inches away from the area of complaint. Many or most tender areas will respond instantly to the proper PNT reflex.
  • Pain on movement occurs when the patient moves the hurt muscle, joint, neck, etc. Many times, pain on movement is caused by trigger points and will resolve when the trigger points are eliminated.
  • Spontaneous pain is the pain the patient is aware of, the pain that brings the patient into your office: the headache, the low back, or joint pain, etc. This is the symptom.

Doctors Report Seeing Trigger Points Disappear Immediately Using Pain Neutralization Technique
Many doctors, including Don Gay, DC, of Florence, Colorado; Dean Odmark, DC, of San Antonio, Texas; and James Taylor, DC, of Connifer, Colorado have reported that they can easily feel the tenderness and tension of trigger points disappear under their fingers when applying the PNT reflexes! In fact, at a demonstration for a state Chiropractic Association, 95% of the 150 doctors present reported feeling a trigger point diminish or disappear within seconds when taught the beginning PNT technique.

Some Commonly Overlooked Activities That Cause Trigger Points to Recur
In my experience, the majority of trigger points will improve after each treatment and be undetectable after three to five visits. Even though most trigger points will respond, occasionally, a patient's symptoms don't completely improve. Not all pain is due to trigger points; eliminating the trigger point will often, but not always, eliminate the symptom. Many patients do things that perpetuate their trigger points, such as the following:

  • snapping their own necks
  • sleeping face down
  • falling asleep when sitting and watching TV (their head drops and overstretches their neck)
  • holding a cell phone between their ear and their shoulder

These activities need to be stopped. Sometimes just getting a patient to stop cracking his own neck or back often results in marked clinical improvement.

DC Shocks MDs as Pain Neutralization Technique Erases Severe Long-Term Pain in Seconds on One Doctor After Another
In March, 2006, I demonstrated the Pain Neutralization Techniques to a group of skeptical MDs at the International College of Integrative Medicine (ICIM). Let me tell you I was nervous! Imagine, a chiropractor showing his techniques to a group of highly trained MDs. Robert Rowen, MD, editor of the Second Opinion newsletter, was present. This is what he wrote:16

Here is a miracle I wouldn't have believed if I wasn't there to witness it. A previously unknown chiropractor spoke about his technique for instantly relieving painful trigger points. What medical doctor would believe such claims from a chiropractor? I listened with curiosity and healthy skepticism. Then he performed his technique on many of my esteemed colleagues, including some very famous ones. The majority got immediate relief, even with very long-term chronic problems. It was absolutely incredible!16 [A copy of this unusual article is available on request.]

One of the physicians at the ICIM meeting was a pioneer in alternative medicine and chelation therapy. He wrote, "I've had continuous back pain since fracturing the transverse process of L1-2-3-4 in 1974. After PNT, the pain was completely gone in a few seconds. It's still gone." Another physician wrote, "the mechanism of PNT made sense to me, but experiencing the treatment was almost startling. I had burning C6-7 pain for three to four months that resolved in seconds, without pressure or coaxing."

Kirby Hotchner, DO, of Miami, Florida, commented, "I've been an associate professor for 15 years at two different Osteopathic medical schools. I've never seen any technique do what these techniques can do…every patient has had an increase in ROM." Kerry Randa, DC, of Loveland, Colorado, said, "It's so much fun to see the look on people's faces when you shut down a major pain (with PNT). I've had almost too many cases to list. I'd been unable to abduct my own shoulder beyond 90° for 40 years. With one treatment at the seminar, I got full abduction back, to 160 degrees!" John Hinz, licensed acupuncturist, of Waukesha, Wisconsin, wrote, "I relieved over 15 headaches in a row, using PNT."

Many hundreds of DCs, acupuncturists, MDs, DOs. and body workers have now learned Pain Neutralization Technique on video. Many of these doctors have had instant improvement and elimination of chronic symptoms when trigger points have been erased, including long-standing cervical and lumbar disc problems, frozen shoulders, severe TMJ dysfunction, migraines, unexplained abdominal pain, etc.

©2007 Stephen Kaufman, DC

For more information, please visit
or contact
Dr. Steve Kaufman, DC
2693 S. Niagara St., Denver, Colorado 80224
800-774-5078 or 303-756-9567.

1. Couppe C, Torelli P, Fuglsang-Frederiksen A, Andersen KV, Jensen R. Myofascial trigger points are very prevalent in patients with chronic tension-type headache: a double-blinded controlled study. Clin J Pain. 2007 Jan;23(1): 23-7.
2. Facco E, Ceccherelli F. Myofascial pain mimicking radicular syndromes. Acta Neurochir Suppl. 2005;92:147-50.
3. Flax HJ. Myofascial pain syndromes--the great mimicker. Bol Asoc Med P R. 1995 Oct-Dec;87(10-12):167-70.
4. Gerwin RD. Neurobiology of the myofascial trigger point. Baillieres Clin Rheumatol. 1994 Nov;8(4):747-62. Review.
5. McPartland JM. Travell trigger points--molecular and osteopathic perspectives. J Am Osteopath Assoc. 2004 Jun;104(6):244-9. Review.
6. Travell J, Rinzler, S. The myofascial genesis of pain. Postgrad Med. 1952 May;11(5):425-34.
7. Travell J, Simons DG. Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: the Trigger Point Manual. Vol. 1 and 2. 2nd edition. New York: Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins; 1999.
8. Brobeck J, ed. Best and Taylor's Physiological Basis of Medical Practice. New York: Williams and Wilkins; 1979: 9-80.
9. Chalmers G. Do Golgi tendon organs really inhibit muscle activity at high force levels to save muscles from injury, and adapt with strength training? Sports Biomech. 2002 Jul;1(2):239-49.
10. Cimen A, Celik M, Erdine S. Myofascial pain syndrome in the differential diagnosis of chronic abdominal pain. Agri. 2004 Jul;16(3):45-7.
11. Cleland CL, Rymer WZ. Functional properties of spinal interneurons activated by muscular free nerve endings and their potential contributions to the clasp-knife reflex. J Neurophysiol. 1993 Apr;69(4):1181-91.
12. Johnson EW. Editorial: The myth of skeletal muscle spasm. Am J Phys Med. 1989; 68: 1.
13. Lauder TD. Musculoskeletal disorders that frequently mimic radiculopathy. Phys Med Rehabil Clin N Am. 2002 Aug;13(3):469-85.
14. Simons DG. Undiagnosed pain complaints: trigger points? Clin J Pain. 1997 Mar;13(1):82-3.
15. Gelb H. Clinical Management of Head, Neck and T.M.J. Pain and Dysfunction. New York: Saunders; 1985.
16. Rowen R. Permanently eliminate pain in minutes. Second Opinion Newsletter. July, 2006.
17. Simons, DG, Travell, JG. Myofascial origins of low back pain. 3. Pelvic and lower extremity muscles. Postgrad Med. 1983 Feb;73(2):99-105, 108.
18. Jankovic D, van Zundert A. The frozen shoulder syndrome. Description of a new technique and five case reports using the subscapular nerve block and subscapularis trigger point infiltration. Acta Anaesthesiol Belg. 2006;57(2):137-43.
19. Pongratz DE, Späth M.Fortschr. Myofascial pain syndrome – frequent occurrence and often misdiagnosed. Med. 1998 Sep 30;116(27):24-9.
20. Defalque RJ. Painful trigger points in surgical scars. Anesth Analg. 1982 Jun; 61(6):518-20.
21. Slocumb JC. Neurological factors in chronic pelvic pain: trigger points and the abdominal pelvic pain syndrome. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1984 Jul 1;149(5):536-43.


Consult your doctor before using any of the treatments found within this site.

Subscriptions are available for Townsend Letter, the Examiner of Alternative Medicine magazine, which is published 10 times each year.

Search our pre-2001 archives for further information. Older issues of the printed magazine are also indexed for your convenience.
1983-2001 indices ; recent indices

Once you find the magazines you'd like to order, please use our convenient form, e-mail, or call 360.385.6021 (PST).


Who are we? | New articles | Featured topics |
Tables of contents
| Subscriptions | Contact us | Links | Classifieds | Advertise | Alternative Medicine Conference Calendar | Search site | Archives |
EDTA Chelation Therapy | Home


© 1983-2007 Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients
All rights reserved.
Website by Sandy Hershelman Designs

October 29, 2007

Order back issues
Advertise with TLDP!

Visit our pre-2001 archives