Trigenics® versus Myofascial Release Techniques:
What is the difference?
By Christian Guenette, DC, RTP, FIIT
Trigenics is a revolutionary new technique that has been receiving accolades from all those who have been exposed to it. Although it has been compared to other soft-tissue techniques, most notably Active Release Techniques, there are some fundamental differences.
Trigenics, as described by its founder, Dr. Allan Oolo Austin, is “an interactive and integrated (soft tissue) system that synergistically combines aspects of both Eastern and Western manual medicines.”1 It is based upon the premise that aberrant articular kinetics can more effectively be corrected by first correcting aberrations in the connective tissues’ kinetic chain regulatory matrix.2 These corrections are achieved by resetting the aberrant resting tone of muscles (the gamma bias), which thereby corrects the restrictions imposed on the surrounding musculoskeletal system. Optimizing the resting length-tension relationship of the muscular system not only helps to regulate the biomechanical function of the neuromusculoskeletal system, but modification of the body’s ‘tone’ also contributes significantly to the energetic balance of the body’s meridian system. The three individual components of Trigenics® are named neuromyogenics, acugenics and autogenics. Synergistically combining the effects of all three is what distinguishes this technique from all other soft-tissue therapies, and also leads to its superior results.
Incorporating neuromuscular physiology, manual meridian therapies and breathing techniques, Trigenics® facilitates nerve system pathways that dramatically relax muscles. With this in mind, this technique can be used to benefit any conditions that relate to nerves, muscles or soft tissue – either for repair and rehabilitation, or for stress management and energy balancing. Utilizing the science of reflexogenic neurophysiology, Trigenics® effectively ‘resets’ the gamma bias of a muscle. As a result, painful spasm can be relieved almost immediately. Since the points of application (Trigenics Myopoints) also correspond with acupuncture meridian points in the body, the resultant effect of stimulation of these points synergistically adds to the benefit of treatment by ‘balancing’ the meridian channels in the body.
One of the most popular forms of Myofascial release is Active Release Technique (ART). According to Dr. Leahy, the founder of the Active Release Techniques, ART is a “hands-on touch and case-management system that allows a practitioner to diagnose and treat soft-tissue injuries.”3 In this system, soft tissue refers primarily to muscle, tendon, fascia and nerves. Specific injuries that this technique is applied to include: repetitive strains, connective tissue ‘adhesions’, tissue hypoxia and joint dysfunction. The theory behind ART is based upon the assumption that when a soft tissue is injured, fibrotic recovery and adhesion formation are the sequelae. As a result, altered biomechanics in the area occurs, leading to decreased muscle function, significant adhesion formation and peripheral nerve entrapment, all of which further decrease the functional capacity of the underlying tissues, and usually result in the presenting painful condition.4
ART is modeled after a traditional Western approach — Dr. Leahy goes into some detail to describe Cumulative Trauma Disorder (CTD) as a common cause of ‘adhesion’ formations.3 CTD is a group of injuries to the muscles, tendons, bones, blood vessels, fascia and/or nerves. It results from acute injury, repetitive injury, or a constant pressure/tension injury. This, in turn, leads to a cumulative injury cycle, and it is the existence of this cumulative injury cycle that separates this disorder from other injuries of the neuro-musculoskeletal system. The result is a cycle of inflammation and/or decreased circulation and edema, which lead to the formation of fibrotic adhesions, contributing to musculoskeletal dysfunction. This cumulative injury cycle is self-perpetuating, and as this downward spiral continues, the symptoms and syndromes of cumulative injury disorder are produced. According to Dr. Leahy, ART is specifically designed to deal with these types of injuries and symptoms, which makes it a very specialized therapy. However, this also limits the treatment to a smaller category of soft tissue injuries than does Trigenics. ART follows a very mechanical model of tissue injury and repair, while Trigenics® adopts a neurological model and a more holistic approach.
Treatment by ART involves addressing the soft-tissue lesion with manipulation while drawing it under a specific contact.5 The most common method is to take the tissue from a shortened position to a fully lengthened position while the contact passes longitudinally along the soft tissue fibers and the lesion. Active participation by the patient (by instructing the patient to actively ‘lengthen’ the muscle being addressed) is directed at giving the patient a sense of ‘control’, and is proposed to block pain at the lateral spinal-thalamic tract. The methods of active motion are designed to maximize relative motion between tissues. In addition, stretching and exercise protocols are recommended as part of the therapy, to maintain and prolong the benefits of treatment. Based upon the ideology that injury develops from cumulative trauma, ART recommends stretching for 10-15 seconds every 15 minutes as opposed to stretching only once a day for any prolonged period of time.3
In recognizing the need for evidence-based treatments, Dr. Austin goes to great lengths to incorporate sound scientific principles in the theoretical effectiveness of Trigenics® therapy. Regarding the physiology of muscle, application of Trigenics® incorporates the effects of ‘reciprocal inhibition’ and the ‘inverse myotatic reflex’ to enhance its neuromyogenic component.1 The science behind this muscle physiology has been well studied and documented.6,7 Acupuncture meridian channels are influenced by Trigenics® in the application of ‘proprioceptive dynamic acupressure’ (PDA) to specific contact points (the ‘mypoints’).1 These myopoints exert their effects because they correlate well to acupuncture meridian points. In the literature, these points have been scientifically proven to provide analgesic effects.6 Taking advantage of this proven fact, Trigenics® is allowed to achieve a level of depth in application without the degree of discomfort associated with other myofascial techniques. Finally, participation of the patient is required in Trigenics® at several different levels. In order to successfully recruit the reflexogenic pathways of muscular relaxation, conscious active contraction of agonist and antagonist muscles is necessary. In addition, the patient is instructed to breathe deeply (activating the ‘relaxation response’) through the abdomen. This is an important component to the Trigenics® treatment, as it relates not only to the prevention of hypocapnia and muscular hypoxia, but also for its energetic consequences, effects on brain-wave states, the viscerosomatic reflexes and the mind-body interaction.1 The patient is also encouraged to visualize the desired result of the treatment, thus enhancing this ‘mind-body’ connection. A study published in 1996 showed that “there are indications that (simply) thinking about the movement of the agonist muscle is enough to send some inhibitory signals to the antagonist.10
Although a very effective treatment for some musculoskeletal conditions, ART limits itself to neuromuscular conditions that involve fibrotic lesions called ‘adhesions.’7 It has an excellent track record for resolving repetitive strain injuries, and peripheral nerve entrapment conditions. However, Trigenics, with its more holistic approach and neurological model, will address not only “fibrotic lesions” and the neuromuscular component of a person’s condition, but also the energetic component through the meridian systems of the body. With this approach, Trigenics® takes advantage of the synergistic effect of three distinct therapies to arrive at the final desired result. That result is to allow for the appropriate length/strength relationship of muscles, which in turn optimizes the function of the neuromusculoskeletal system, restoring normal movement patterns and decreasing dysfunction and pain. In addition, through the process of Myomeridian balancing (one of the procedures involved in Trigenics), resetting the normal ‘tone’ of the body facilitates optimum mind-body communication, restoring the innate capabilities of the body to heal itself.
1. Austin, A. Trigenics, Neuromuscular Meridian Medicine (Module I – Theory). International Institute of Trigenics. (2001)
2. Austin, A. Trigenics. (Module III – Clinical Applications), International Institute of Trigenics. (2001)
3. Leahy, M. Development of Active Release Techniques Soft-Tissue Treatment (Part I). Active Release Techniques. (1996)
4. Leahy, PM & Mock, LE. Myofascial release technique and mechanical compromise of peripheral nerves of the upper extremity. Chiropractic Sports Medicine 6 (4); 1992.
5. Leahy, PM & Mock, LE. Synoviochondrometaplasia of the Shoulder: A Case Report. Chiropractic Sports Medicine 6 (4); 1992.
6. Ikai T et al. Reciprocal inhibition in the forearm during voluntary contraction and thinking about movement. Electromyography & Clinical Neurophysiology; 36 (5); 1996.
7. Bertolasi L et al. Inhibitory action of forearm flexor muscle afferents on corticospinal outputs to antagonist muscles in humans. Journal of Physiology; 511 (3); 1998.
8. Chiang CY, Chang CT, Chu HC & Yang LF. Peripheral afferent pathway for acupuncture analgesia. Scientia Sinica 16: 210-217, 1973.
9. Leahy, PM & Mock, LE. Altered biomechanics of the shoulder and the subscapularis. Chiropractic Sports Medicine 5(3); 1991.
10. Ikai T, et al. Reciprocal Inhibition in the forearm during voluntary contraction and thinking about movement. Electromyography & Clinical Neurophysiology; 36 (5): 295-304; 1996, July – August.