Chapter 1: The Structure and Function of Breathing

This is a chapter 1 summary of “Multidisciplinary Approaches to Breathing Pattern Disorders” by Leon Chaitow. The second edition will be coming out this December, and you can preorder it by clicking on the link or the photo below


Breathing has been something I have been interested in very much since I first learned about its power from Bill Hartman and through the Postural Restoration Institute, and this excellent book is a great way to get a full overview.

The first chapter covers too much anatomy to go through every little detail in my short blog post. So study up.  Here are the highlights.

Structure, Function, and You

In order to have favorable respiration, structure makes all the difference. Adequate thoracic, ribcage, and breathing muscle mobility must be restored and maintained in order to uptake a quality breath. This can be achieved via re-education and training.

Realize too that psychological distress can also play a huge role in how we breathe. Disorders such as anxiety and depression can have corresponding breathing dysfunctions.  It may be the way the body responds to ensure survival.

Even if you must alter your breathing to do so.
Even if you must alter your breathing to do so.

Ergo, when attempting to change breathing patterns favorably, one must address both structural and psychological factors.


Homeostasis is the body’s process to normalize itself. If too many homeostatic-disrupting tasks are occurring at one time however—such as nutritional deficiencies and toxin ingestion—homeostatic function can become overwhelmed.  This systematic stress can lead to breakdown and a switch to heterostasis, in which the body must be treated. We can restore homeostasis via the following:

  • Take away as many undesirable adaptive factors as possible.
  • Enhance, improve, and modulate defensive and repair processes.
  • Treat symptoms without further burdening the system.

A general rule of thumb when addressing these areas: The weaker a patient is, the lighter the intervention must be.

Actually a very good question.
Actually a very good question.

Normal Breathing

There are several benefits to having optimal respiratory function:

  • Allows gas exchange.
  • Enhanced cellular function so the brain, organs, and body tissues perform normally.
  • Permits normal speech.
  • Involved in non-verbal expression.
  • Assists in fluid movement.
  • Mobilizes the spine.
  • Enhances digestive function

Air takes a fascinating journey when it enters our body. It goes through the following passageway

Nose –> Nasopharynx –> oropharynx –> laryngeal pharynx –> larynx –> trachea –> bronchi –> bronchioles

Arguably the first relevant picture I have ever used in a blog post.
Arguably the first relevant picture I have ever used in a blog post.

The two breathing strategies we utilize are nose and mouth breathing. Nose breathing is slow and rhythmic; utilized for sleep, rest, and quiet activity. But when we need large air volumes, mouth breathing comes into play. Mouth breathing requires much less resistance compared to the nose, and involves intercostal and anterior neck muscle activity.

Regardless of which strategy is used to breathe, the following occurs at the diaphragmatic level:

  • Diaphragm descends during inhalation; pulling the central tendon down.
  • Abdominal viscera resist the diaphragm from descending.
  • This resistance fixes the central tendon, causing the ribs to displace laterally.
  • At the same time, the sternum moves superiorly and anteriorly.
  • The combination of the above two leads to thoracic cavity expansion.
  • Greater breath volumes lead to accessory muscle utilization.
  • Abdominal muscle tone allows for correct viscera position so an appropriate amount of central tendon resistance can occur.
Easily the most important and sexiest muscle in the body.
Easily the most important and sexiest muscle in the body.

At the gas exchange level, air travels via the following pathway:

Nasal cavity and mouth –>  trachea –> bronchi –> bronchiole –> alveoli

Luke, I am your Fascia

Lung function can also be affected by fascial links throughout the body.  There is a direct fascial connection from the base of the skull to the diaphragmatic apex. Thus, stress in one area along this pathway can affect areas along the same location. As an example, changes in cervical spine or diaphragm position can lead to changes in breathing patterns.

You can also see fascial connections between the diaphragm, cervical spine, and pleura.  You can often see that the pleura can be affected with impairments in the prior regions.  For example, there have been dissections in which degenerated lower cervical structures also have corresponding fibrotic change to the pleuropulmonary attachments.

Even if you are not a big fascia person, you have to admit they make good chocolates.
Even if you are not a big fascia person, you have to admit they make good chocolates.

Ain’t no Bones About it

From a spinal perspective, breathing has a large effect on joint mobility; namely in the frontal plane. Every time we inhale, the odd segments (C3, T7) become more mobile, with the even segments increasing mobility during exhalation. This effect decreases as we travel down to the lower thoracic segments. The exception for this mobility is the cervicocranial junction, in which all three planes become more mobile upon inhalation. Taking this phenomenon into account, it may be helpful to utilize breathing cycles during mobilizations depending on which segments you wish facilitate.

Neural Regulation and Breathing

The brain works on controlling respiration in order to maintain balanced concentrations of oxygen and carbon dioxide. Respiratory control centers are located in the brainstem via three primary nuclei groups:

  1. Dorsal respiratory group – Found in the medulla. This area creates inspiratory movements and is responsible for the basic breathing rhythm.
  2. Pneumotaxic center – Found in the superior part of the pons. This area controls the filling phase of breathing.
  3. Ventral respiratory group – Found in the medulla. This area causes both inspiration and expiration. However, this area is inactive during quiet breathing.

While not a brain area, the Hering-Breuer reflex is an important neurological phenomenon. Located in the nerves of the bronchi and bronchioles, this reflex prevents lung overinflation via sending messages to the dorsal respiratory center via the vagus nerve.

Some people may argue I need a reflex for ego overinflation.
Some people may argue I need a reflex for ego overinflation.

Most of the above is in reference to quiet breathing. We can use a cortical overriding system via spinal neurons to respiratory muscles to consciously change breathing patterns.

This strategy is utilized in day-to-day activities such as speaking and singing. There is also some evidence that the cortex and thalamus drive some normal respiratory function. These areas are likely what we target and are likely originators for breathing pattern disorders (BPDs) and hyperventilation syndromes (HVSs).

Autonomic Fun

You cannot talk breathing without mentioning the autonomic nervous system (ANS).  There are two divisions of the ANS; the sympathetic (SNS) and parasympathetic (PNS) nervous systems.  The SNS deals with flight, fight, or freeze responses; and its neurons connect to the head, neck, heart, larynx, trachea, bronchi, and lungs. So we can see a vast number of areas that are affected if the SNS is dominant.

The PNS, on the other hand, deals with visceral functions aka rest and digest.  These areas govern the lungs, cranial, and pelvic regions.

There is also a third nervous system called the non-adrenergic noncholinergic (NANC) system, which contains inhibitory and stimulating fibers. The main neurotransmitter for this region is nitric oxide.

When inhibitory neurons in the NANC are active, smooth muscle relaxation and bronchodilation occur via calcium ions, with the opposite occurring via NANC’s stimulatory C fibers.

It's what I blame most things on.
It’s what I blame most things on.

The Muscles of Respiration

The two thoracic-based muscle groups that influence respiration can be broken down into extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic muscles position the torso; which influences shoulder, arm, neck, and head placement. As we learned previously, the position of these areas can influence breathing mechanics.

The intrinsic muscles predominately focus on moving thoracic vertebrae or the rib cage, and are the money muscles associated with respiration.

To get more specific, there are several muscles that work on inspiration. The king of course is the diaphragm, which provides 70-80% of the inhalation force. Other muscles that assist inspiration include lateral external intercostals, parasternal internal intercostals, scalenes, and levator costarum.

When we need an extra inspiratory kick for more demanding activities, we will often use accessory muscles to facilitate this process. These muscles include sternocleidomastoid (SCM), upper trapezius, pectoralis major and minor, serratus anterior, latissimus dorsi, serrratus posterior superior, iliocostalis thoracis, subclavius, and omohyoid.

We also have muscles that can perform exhalation, but understand that exhaling is primarily a passive process. We exhale based on elastic recoil from the lungs, diaphragm, pleura, and costal cartilages.

But sometimes you may want to utilize muscles to force an exhale. The guys for this would include interosseous internal intercostals, abdominal muscles, transversus thoracics, subcostales, iliocostalis lumborum, quadratus lumborum, serratus posterior inferior, and latissimus dorsi.

No truer words can be spoken.
No truer words can be spoken.

Chapter 12: Lower Limb

This is a Chapter 12 summary of “Clinical Neurodynamics” by Michael Shacklock.

Piriformis Syndrome

Piriformis syndrome often involves the fibular tract of the sciatic nerve. It has the capacity to create symptoms from the buttock down to the anterolateral leg. Testing the neurodynamics with a fibular nerve bias is essential.

To attempt to isolate this problem, we must best differentiate interface from neurodynamic components. Using Cyriax principles –palpation, contraction, and lengthening –can be beneficial in this regard. Keep in mind that below 70 degrees hip flexion the piriformis produces external rotation, and above 70 degrees it is an internal rotator.

When treating this problem, the goal is to change pressure between the piriformis muscle and the sciatic nerve.

Level 1a – Static opener


Level 1b – Dynamic opener

VID – Passive ER

Level 2a – Closer mobilization using passive IR.

VID – Passive IR

Level 2b – We finish with a passive piriformis stretch

VID – Tailor stretch

If there is a neurodynamic component to things, slightly modify things by using sliders. We start things off with the same opener as the interface above.  As the patient progresses, you can add proximal or distal components eventually finishing with a fibular nerve-based slump.

VID – Building the slump

To combine interface and neural treatments, contract-relax can be utilized.

Sciatic Nerve in the Thigh

Oftentimes with hamstring strains, sciatic nerve sensitivity can increase. The slump and straight leg raise tests can be utilized to help differentiate a pure hamstring issue from neural problems.

To treat this issue, sliders can be utilized, eventually working to a slump tensioner:

VID – PF at top for proximal dysfunction, DF at bottom for distal sliding…progress with spinal lateral flexion (done in slump

Knee and Thigh Pain

Implicating neurodynamic problems in this population is challenging, as these tests often show covert abnormal responses. These can be treated with simple sliders and tensioners. These are not in the Shacklock book, but are what I have been currently using.

VID of FS slider and tensioner

Fibular Nerve

Here is an example of a slider and tensioner for fibular nerve impairments.


Sural Nerve

And for the sural nerve.


Chapter 11: Lumbar Spine

This is a Chapter 11 summary of “Clinical Neurodynamics” by Michael Shacklock.

Physical Exam

The slump is the big dog for assessing lumbar spine complaints. Deciphering which movements evoke the patient’s symptoms can tell you a lot about the nervous system’s dysfunction:

  • Neck flexion increases symptoms – Cephalid sliding dysfunction.
  • Knee extension/dorsiflexion increases symptoms – Cauded sliding dysfunction.
  • Both neck flexion and knee extension increase symptoms – Tension dysfunction.
Guaranteed he does the slump all the time.
Guaranteed he does the slump all the time.

The straight leg raise is another important test that can help determine the nervous system’s state.


The treatment parallels similar tactics as previous body areas. For reduced closing dysfunctions We start level 1 with static openers, progress to dynamic openers, then work to close.

For opening dysfunctions, we progress toward further opening/contralateral lateral flexion.

Neural Dysfunctions

We treat these mechanisms based on which dysfunction is present. For cephalid sliding dysfunctions, we approach with distal to proximal progressions; and for caudad sliding dysfunction, we work proximal to distal

Tension dysfunctions are started with off-loading mvoements towards tensioners

Complex Dysfunctions

Sometimes you can have interface dysfunctions that simultaneously have contradictory neurodynamic dysfunction. There are several instances of the case.

Reduced closing with distal sliding dysfunction – Treat by combining closing maneuvers while perform active knee extension.

Reduced closing with proximal sliding dysfunction – Address by closing maneuver with neck flexion.

Reduced closing with tension dysfunction – This is treated with adding closing components to tensioners

Reduced opening with distal sliding dysfunction – Here we add a dynamic opener along with leg movements.

Reduced opening with proximal sliding dysfunction – Same as above, only we add neck flexion instead of leg movements

Reduced opening with tension dysfunction – Basically a combination of the last two treatments.

The same techniques can be applied to mid-lumbar dysfunctions, this time utilizing the femoral slump:

And if all else fails, just watch this video (NSFW due to language).

Course Notes: PRI Myokinematic Restoration

What a Class

Wow. That’s all that really needs to be said.  I have had a great deal of exposure to PRI in the past, but I have only had one formal class under my belt. Needless to say, I was looking forward to learning more. James Anderson and the PRI folks did not disappoint.

Myokinematic Restoration was easily the best class I have taken all year.

It also helped having another like-minded group attending. You learn so much more when you are surrounded by friends. Here is the course low-down.

Disclaimer for the Uninitiated

I know there are a lot of misconceptions about PRI on the interwebz. Even though posture is in the name, PRI has little to do with posture in the traditional sense. We know posture does not cause pain, and PRI agrees with this notion. But it’s not like they can change the name of the organization now. What? Do you think Ron Hruska is Diddy or something?

I'm just not seeing it folks. Get over it.
I’m just not seeing it folks. Get over it.

After discussions with James and his mentioning this aloud in class, the target of PRI is the autonomic nervous system. Not posture, not pain, not pathoanatomy, but the brain. Essentially, they have figured out a window into the autonomic nervous system via peripheral assessment.

Moreover, PRI is not in the pain business, though many think this is the case. Hell, even in the home studies they mention pain quite a bit. But realize those were done in 2005. Would you like me to hold you to things you have said 8 years ago?

Throughout the entire two day course, pain was mentioned in two instances. The first time was this direct quote from James:

“ PRI does not treat pain.”

The second time was mentioned in the case of various pathologies, in which James put a disclaimer that PRI just puts these things in here per clinician requests.

And what James and Larry Bird says, goes.
And what James and Larry Bird say, go.

What PRI treats is position, neutrality, a state of the autonomic nervous system that is shifted towards parasympathetic but can freely alternate between sympathetic and parasympathetic states.

So if PRI doesn’t treat pain why use it? I say because the autonomic nervous system influences pain states. The potentially indirect effects on pain when the autonomic nervous system is favorably influenced seem desirable. And from my own personal experience, for whatever that is worth, my limited understanding of PRI has netted me quite a bit of success with my patients. It also requires my patients to spend less time in the clinic since they do not require my hands; good news for everyone.

Back to the Basics

The basic PRI concepts rely on asymmetry. All body systems –neurological, respiratory, muscular, visual, etc.—are asymmetrical.  This asymmetry cannot be changed, but we can strive to reduce one-sided dominance as best we can.

The side that is dominant in human beings is the right side. This lateralization is normal, but what we don’t want is the right to be overly biased. Too much right dominance essentially creates a low level left sided neglect.

The Chain

Myokin’s utmost focus is on a polyarticular muscle chain known as the anterior interior chain (AIC), which is composed of the following muscles:

  • Diaphragm – king
  • Iliacus
  • Psoas
  • Tensor fascia lata
  • Vastus lateralis
  • Biceps femoris
Here is the product of Visible Body + anal retention
Here is the product of Visible Body + anal retention

You have two of these chains, a left and a right. For a variety of reasons, such as our asymmetrical build and left hemisphere/right sided dominance, the left AIC is more dominantly active compared to the right.

You can notice this dominance just by comparing right and left hemidiphragms:

  • Right has a larger diameter.
  • Right has a thicker & larger central tendon.
  • Right has a higher dome, and is better able to maintain this shape.
  • Right has more crural fibers and fascia.
  • The right crura attach 1-1.5 levels lower on the lumbar spine than the left.
It's science folks.
It’s science.

Basically, the right diaphragm is built for success, whereas the left diaphragm is often more contracted, smaller, and less concentrically effective. This difference helps perpetuate a more active LAIC. The path of least resistance for you to have an effective breath is by activating these muscles. 

Because the LAIC is the more dominant chain, this throws the body into an asymmetrical position. The left innominate is more anteriorly tilted and forwardly rotated with the right more posteriorly tilted and backwardly rotated. This position puts the right hip into internal rotation, adduction, and extension; and the left hip compensatorily into external rotation, abduction, and flexion.

I seriously could play with this thing all day.
I seriously could play with this thing all day.

Chains and Gait

These chains oppose each other during gait. For example, when you are standing on your right leg, your LAIC is active, causing the swing leg to further put weight on the right leg. You cannot fully use one chain unless the opposite chain is inhibited, so the RAIC is quite during this phase. Inhibition allows for alternating and reciprocal gait; the goal of PRI.

Realize that as long as you are in weight bearing, you are in a phase of gait. We can base this off of pelvic positioning. Since pelvic position can be altered with breathing, it is fair to say the every time you take a breath you are put into a phase of gait. Breathing and gait are one in the same.

Pattern Testing

To assess neutrality, many common tests already utilized in the therapy realm are used. The two big tests are:

  • Modified Ober’s test (adduction drop)
  • Modified Thomas test (extension drop)

With the LAIC pattern, you will see a positive Ober’s on the left but not on the right. This finding is due to either restriction from the anterior-inferior acetabular labral rim, transverse ligament, and piriformis muscle; or impact of the posteroinferior femoral neck on the posteroinferior rim of acetabulum that does not allow femoral adduction.

The Thomas test in this pattern can be either positive or negative. A positive Thomas correlates with the adduction drop due to the limited extension. A negative Thomas test, barring a positive Ober, would implicate iliofemoral and pubofemoral ligament laxity.  If we think back to the position of the innominate, the left femur will have to externally rotate in order to face forward, which can stretch the anterior capsuloligamentous structures. Here is the same thing better explained by Bill Hartman:

You should also see limited right trunk rotation (unless there is iliolumbar ligament laxity), decreased left SLR (unless you have an overstretched hamstring), an apparent shorter left leg,  and decreased left hip internal rotation and right hip external rotation.

PRI also has a test called the Hruska Adduction Lift test, which is used to assess acetabulofemoral control in a way that correlates with gait. The scope of this test and interpretations are too much to fully write about in a short summary, so perhaps when I get better understanding all the nuances, performance, and meaning I will post on this test further.  Until then, PRI instructor Mike Cantrell wrote a great piece on the lift test here.

Myokin Algorithm

Taking the above tests, namely the adduction drop and lift test, the goal is to satisfy the following questions:

1)      Can the person adduct? (adduction drop)

2)      Can the person internally rotate on both sides? (Measurement, adduction lift)

3)      Does the person have internal rotation strength on both sides? (adduction lift)

Money Muscles

In order to inhibit the LAIC, there are several key muscles that are to be activated:

  • Left Hamstrings [sagittal repositioner]
  • Left anterior gluteus medius
  • Left ischiocondylar (hamstring portion; IC) adductor [frontal repositioner]
  • Left glute max (sagittal fibers)
  • Right adductor magnus
  • Right glute max (transverse fibers) [Transverse repositioner and the other key to maintaining neutrality].
  • Bilateral obturator interni (the key to maintaining neutrality)
  • Left abdominal obliques.

The goal is to influence the left hemidiaphragm away from its overly contracted state in order to allow better reciprocally alternating respiration, position, and gait.

Alternating is a great thing in most cases.
Alternating is a great thing in most cases.

Treating the LAIC

The LAIC patient has a positive adduction drop test and Thomas test. So the name of the game is to reposition and develop hole control. What hole control means is allowing the obturator and glute max to control the femur in the acetabulum to allow for reciprocal gait pattern.

For the LAIC, we want to activate the following muscles in the following order:

1)      Biceps femoris in ER/extension

2&3)      R Glute max & obturator & adductor magnus via ER

4)      L Anterior glute med via IR

5)      L IC adductor via IR

6)      Medial hamstrings via IR

By performing the exercises in this order, we first reposition, then establish hole control, and then retrain the person to turn to the left side.

Patho LAIC

There are certain instances in which ligaments can get stretched out and become lax. This is where the concept of ligamentous muscle comes into play, in which muscles increase their tone to reinforce capsuloligamentous structures.

The theoretical reason this order is performed is because the IC adductor approximates the femur into the acetabulum, while the left anterior gluteus medius strangulates the joint by further driving internal rotation.

For a patho LAIC, we go for the following muscles in a slightly different order:

1)      Biceps femoris to reposition

2)      L IC adductor via IR

3)      L anterior glute med via IR

4)      R glute max via ER

5)      R adductor magnus via ER

6)      L medial hamstrings via IR

In this instance, we reposition, then build ligamentous muscle, and finish by establishing hole control.

If after a successful reposition you notice mobility changes in hip rotation, you may want to proceed in the following manner:

  • Decreased left IR (v Right): Stretch posterior capsule
  • Increased left ER (v right): go after L IC adductor and L anterior glute med
  • Increased right IR (v left): Kick in R glute max and R posterior glute med
  • Decreased right ER (v left): Stretch anterior & inferior capsule

Favorite James Quotes

  • “The diaphragm owns you.”
  • “If you don’t have position and throw in demand, someone else will do it.”
  • “I find it offensive when people say iliopsoas. We don’t call it the hamductor obturatoridiosus.”
  • “Screw PT school, subscribe to Oprah.”
  • “The whole body is in a phase of gait.”
  • “The problem is the brain and the diaphragm.”
  • “Nobody is Weak.”
  • “External rotation is worthless without internal rotation.”
  • “PRI is from start to finish brain therapy and parasympathetic awareness of the left side.”
PRI eats that brain up.
PRI eats that brain up.


I cannot recommend enough courses from PRI. I base this off of the methodology, effectiveness, and thought process. They appreciate the nervous system’s power just as much as anyone. Please check them out and tell ‘em Zac sent you.

Great time with great friends.
Great time with great friends.

Chapter 10: Upper Limb

This is a Chapter 10 summary of “Clinical Neurodynamics” by Michael Shacklock.

Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS)

When discussing TOS pathoneurodynamics, you must talk about breathing. The brachial plexus passes inferolaterally between the first rib and clavicle. When inhalation occurs, the plexus bowstrings over the first rib cephalidly. So breathing dysfunctions can contribute to one’s symptoms. Excessive scapular depression can also contribute because the clavicle approximates the plexus from above.

Deal with it.
Deal with it.

Clinically, TOS often presents as anteroinferior shoulder pain, with some cases passing distally along the course of the ulnar nerve.  A resultant upper trapezius/levator scapula hyper or hypoactivity can occur that may affect the neural elements.

Treating the Interface

Level 1 – Static Opener with breathing

Level 2 – Static opener with rib mob during exhalation; progressing with scapular depression.

Level 3 – Rib depression with sliders and tensioners.

Pronator Tunnel Syndrome

This syndrome consists of pain in the anteromedial forearm region with or without pins and needles. Symptoms are usually provoked by repetitive activities such as squeezing, pulling through the elbow, and pronation movements.

From an interface perspective, pronator syndrome deals with excessive closing. So we will use openers to treat.

Level 1 – Static opener combining 60-90 degrees of elbow flexion with forearm pronation

You call 'em forearms, I call 'em fivearms...I wish
You call ’em forearms, I call ’em fivearms…I wish

Level 2 – Dynamic opener

Treating neural components depends on the present dysfunction. There are the following possible dysfunctions:

  • Distal sliding dysfunction – symptoms decrease with contralateral cervical flexion.
  • Proximal sliding dysfunction – Symptoms increase with contralateral cervical sidebend and finger flexion.
  • Tension dysfunction – Symptoms increase with contralateral cervical sidebend and finger extension.

We treat the distal sliding dysfunction by progression sliders from large to small distal movements, with the reverse occurring for proximal sliding dysfunctions:

Tension dysfunctions are going from anti-tension to tension mechanisms

You can also combine interfaces and neurodynamic treatment utilizing acupressure during a nerve mobilization:

Supinator Tunnel Syndrome

This syndrome involves anterolateral elbow and forearm pain with possibly pins and needles. There also can be isolated wrist dorsum pain. Symptoms are provoked by activities such as squeezing and pulling through elbow flexion and supination movements.

Interface treatment is very similar to that of pronator tunnel syndrome.

You can also have distal (improve with contralateral cervical sidebend) and proximal (worsen with contralateral cervical sidebend and wrist extension) sliding dysfunctions, which are treated in a similar fashion as the pronator tunnel syndrome. So too with tension dysfunction; the goal is to build up the test.

You can also perform neurodynamic massage over the supinator.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS)

Treating CTS is an often underutilized area that can be of much benefit. We can mobilize the transverse ligament as an interface technique.

You can also treat the neural structures with different methods depending on the dysfunction.

Proximal sliding dysfunction – use a median nerve slider starting with distal components then adding proximal components

Distal sliding dysfunction – Use Median nerve test 1 and slowly add distal components.

The best slider for the median nerve is in fact the tensioner. This is because when you extend the wrist, the tendons and the nerve move in the same direction. Adding contralateral cervical sidebend slides the median nerve in the opposite direction of the tendons.

Tensioning dysfunction is just utilizing your basic tensioner.

Nothing fancy. Just back to the basics.
Nothing fancy. Just back to the basics.


Chapter 9: Cervical Spine

This is a Chapter 9 summary of “Clinical Neurodynamics” by Michael Shacklock.

Physical Exam

The key tests you will want to perform include:

  • Slump test.
  • MNT 1.

You can tier your testing based on one’s dysfunctions, such as opening or closing, as well as using sensitizers for less severe problems.

Reduced Closing Dysfunction

Level 1a – Static opener to increase space and decrease pressure in the intervertebral foramen. In the picture below, we would open the right side by combining flexion, contralateral sidebend, and contralateral rotation.


Level 1b to 2b

Reduced Opening Dysfunctions

For these impairments, they are treated just the same as closing dysfunctions. The major difference is rationale. In closing dysfunction, the goal is to reduce stress on the nervous system. With opening dysfunctions, however, we are trying to improve the opening pattern.

Static openers will generally not be used because these treatments could potentially provoke symptoms.

Be careful with provoking.
Be careful with provoking.

Neural Dysfunction

The gentlest technique is the two-ended slider, in which an ipsilateral lateral glide and elbow extension are performed.

For tension dysfunctions, we go through the following progression:

Chapter 8: Method of Treatment: Systematic Progression

This is a Chapter 8 summary of “Clinical Neurodynamics” by Michael Shacklock.

Let’s Treat the Interfaces

The two main ways to treat interfaces involve opening and closing techniques. These treatments involve either sustained or dynamic components. We will discuss which techniques work best in terms of dysfunction classification.

– Reduced Closing Dysfunction – Given static openers early in this progression, continuing to increase frequency and duration. Eventually you move to more aggressive opening techniques, while finishing with closing maneuvers.

– Reduced Opening Dysfunction – Start with gentle opening techniques working to further increasing the range.

– Excessive Closing and Opening Dysfunctions – Work on improving motor control and stability.

But for the love of science not like this!
But for the love of science not like this!

How About Neural Dysfunctions

The main treatments are sliders and tensioners; each can be performed as one or two-ended. Sliders ought to be applied when pain is the key symptom. Sliding may milk the nerves of inflammation and increase blood flow. These techniques could also be used to treat a specific sliding dysfunction.

Sliders can be performed for 5 to 30 reps with 10 seconds to several minute breaks between sets. Increased symptoms such as heaviness, stretching, and tightness is okay, but pain should not occur afterwards. Typically sliders are performed in early stages, and in acute situations should occur away from the offending site.

Tensioners are reserved for higher level tension dysfunctions. The goal is to improve nerve viscoelasticity. Some symptoms are likely to be evoked, but this occurrence is okay as long as symptoms do not last.  Tensioners are used in later-stage dysfunction.

Ain't no dysfunction on this stage. If you haven't seen Book of Mormon you are missing out.
Ain’t no dysfunction on this stage. If you haven’t seen Book of Mormon you are missing out.

Chapter 7: Standard Neurodynamic Testing

This is a Chapter 7 summary of “Clinical Neurodynamics” by Michael Shacklock.

Passive Neck Flexion

With this test, the upper cervical tissues slide caudad, and the lower cephalid. The thoracic spine moves in a cephalid direction as well.

Normal responses ought to be upper thoracic pulling at end-range. Abnormal symptoms would include low back pain, headache, or lower limb symptoms.

Median Neurodynamic Test 1 (MNT1)

This test, also known as the base test, moves almost all nerves between the neck and hand.

Normal responses include symptoms distributed along the median nerve; to include anterior elbow pulling that extends to the first three digits. These symptoms change with contralateral lateral flexion and less often ipsilateral lateral flexion. Anterior shoulder stretching can also occur.

Ulnar Neurodynamic Test (UNT)

This test biases the ulnar nerve, brachial plexus, and potentially the lower cervical nerve roots.

Normal responses include stretching sensations along the entire limb, but most often in the ulnar nerve’s field.

Median Neurodynamic Test 2 (MNT2)

This version biases the lower cervical nerve roots, spinal nerves, brachial plexus, and median nerve.

Normal responses would be similar to MNT1.

Radial Neurodynamic Test (RNT)

This test looks predominately at radial nerve, as well as the nerve roots. It is uncertain if this test biases any particular nerve root.

Normal responses include lateral elbow/forearm pulling, stretch in the dorsal wrist.

Axillary Neurodynamic Test (ANT)

This test tenses the axillary nerve, though may not be specific.

Normal responses include posterolateral shoulder pulling with about 45-90 degrees of abducton.

Radial Sensory Neurodynamic Test (RSNT)

This test is used to rule out de Quervain’s disease as a neurodynamic problem.

Normal responses include intense pulling at the distal radial forearm.

Straight Leg Raise (SLR)

This test is performed with any posterior symptoms from the heel to the thoracic spine.

Active cervical flexion should not be used in this test because false results can occur from abdominal muscle contraction. This error may lead to posterior pelvic tilt, which reduces the hip flexion angle.

Normal response is pulling and stretching in the posterior thigh.

Tibial Neurodynamic Test (TNT)

This test is done for symptoms in the tibial nerve distribution.

Normal responses include stretching in the calf region that can go all the way to the plantar aspect of the foot.

Fibular Neurodynamic Test (FNT)

This test biases both the common and superficial fibular nerves.

Normal responses include stretching and pulling in the anterolateral leg and ankle and the foot dorsum.

Sural Neurodynamic Test (SNT)

This test biases the sural nerve, which can often be involved in a sprained ankle.

Normal responses include pulling in the posterolateral ankle region.

Slump Test

This test checks the peripheral and central nervous system, and can encompass symptoms from the head to the foot.

Normal responses vary depending on the sequence. Usually the movement performed earliest is where symptoms will occur.

Saphenous Neurodynamic Test (SAPHNT)

This test looks at medial knee, shin, and ankle.

Normal response is anterior thigh stretching.

Femoral Slump Test (FST) with Lateral Femoral Cutaneous Nerve and Obturator biases.

These movements bias the anterior-based nerve of the leg.

Shacklock normally performs the exam with the bottom leg in order to maximize gravity’s effects. The obturator can also be biased as such.

Normal responses includes pulling in the adductor region, anterior thigh, or lateral thigh depending on the bias.

Bias is okay in neurodyanamic testing.
Bias is okay in neurodyanamic testing.

Online Consult with The Manual Therapist

The Rundown

My good friend Erson Religioso of The Manual Therapist fame recently contacted me to do a consult for some back/leg trouble he has been having.

It was a very interesting eval for many reasons. Online consults are a completely different animal, as you cannot do any hands-on testing.

Moreover, when you have a therapist who is initiated into pain neuroscience, you don’t have to go so much the Explain Pain route 🙂

So with this eval, we looked at things a lot through a PRI lens, and were able to get him strategies to modulate his pain experience. The eval runs a smidge over 1 hour, so here are some vids with a quick rundown.


– Getting paresthesia down the R LE that began 2 weeks ago after a car ride…has peripheralized since initial event.

– Symptoms are aggravated with static sitting or standing…onset ranging from seconds to minutes.

– Has tried loading/unloading MDT strategies, neurodynamics, Mulligan techniques, IASTM, compression wrapping, etc…all to no avail.

Objective (major findings)

– Limited B Apley’s scratch (1 per FMS scoring)

– Negative slump and ASLR

– Painful lumbar motions of extension, right rotation and sidebend. R sidebend was limited.

– Negative thomas test on left, positive on right

– Slight limitations in active seated hip IR B, R>L.

– Adduction lift scores 1/5 B.

My Impression

If I were to classify Erson, it seems his symptoms would seems to be more dominant as peripheral nociceptive ischemic and central sensitivity (he stated he has always had findings with his back). I was less inclined to think he had peripheral neuropathic issues, at least yet, based on neurodynamic findings.

From a PRI perspective, Erson presents as an interesting case. The Thomas test was the most interesting finding, as he was negative on the left, but positive on the right. A positive Thomas test usually correlates with a positive Ober test. The negative test on the left implies some ligamentous laxity in the anterior hip capsule.

Based on the Thomas tests and hip IR limitations, I would classify him PRI-wise as a patho-PEC (marked extensor tone/pattern) with corresponding Bilateral BC (extension tone, bilateral anteriorly tilted scapulae. Basically, dude likes to hang out in extension and stand on his right leg.

Treatment & Result

1) cough reflex for quick repositioning – This improved Apley’s scratch mobility and Erson stating less symptoms/improved mobility with extension.

2) HEP included the following (in order)

– 90/90 hip lift

– L adductor pullback

– L glute med

– R glute max

So with this program, we are trying to get him some increased muscle tone on the left side to act as “ligamentous muscle” as PRI would call it

3) Postural feedback

– He was also instructed to stand and sit in corrective left stance. This serves two purposes

a) Helps reinforce a R AIC pattern, shifting his tendency to put most of his weight on the right side.

b) Help decrease the ischemic response from putting excessive weight on the right side with sitting and standing by making him put more weight on his left.

When this sensory input was given, he could change his symptoms with sitting and standing.


Thanks to Erson again for giving me the chance to work with him.


Course Notes: Pain by Lorimer Moseley

I just ran through my second watching of a lecture that Lorimer Moseley did on Pain in LA. It was an excellent presentation that was put together by Laree Draper over at  Please purchase this product here and help her continue to put out great content.

There were so many valuable examples Lorimer gave that there is no way I could account for all of them. Here are the highlights.

Nociception and Pain

  • Pain is all about meaning.
  • Pain relies on credible evidence to be active.
  • Pain experiments are really nociceptive experiments.
  • Visual experience depends on the evaluation of sensory input.
  • The brain has to figure out how dangerous “x” really is.
  • Pain emerges from the human.
  • Nociception doesn’t make us do anything, but pain will.
  • You can differentiate peripheral and central sensitivity by applying heat to the painful area. Heat ought to increase the symptoms in peripheral nociceptive problems.
I may have to grow back the mustache just so I can wear this shirt.
I may have to grow the mustache back just so I can wear this shirt.

Pain Modulators

  • Nociception
  • Anything that modulates the evaluation of danger and protection of body tissue.


  • Small changes in the neurotag can lead to major changes in the output.
  • Any belief you have regarding your pain is linked to the pain neurotag.
I wonder how many pain neurotags this activates?
I wonder how many pain neurotags this activates?

Cortical Body Matrix (CBM)

  • The CBM is a network of neural loops that protect and regulate the body physiologically and psychologically.
  • When the pain neurotag becomes facilitated, less and less input needs to occur for it to activate.
  • When pain persists, oftentimes the pain neurotags becomes imprecise; leading to noninvolved neurons firing. This is how pain spreading works.
  • Motor control changes occur due to the above imprecision.
  • It might be possible to treat other afferents to alter the pain experience.

Therapeutic Targets

  1. 1.       Understand Pain
  2. 2.       Identify and defuse all threats
  3. 3.       Normalize the cortical body matrix by promoting precision.

Favorite Lorimer Quotes

  • “Pain is very complex.”
  • “We can’t treat every pain patient with a simple solution.”
  • “The best way to get rid of chronic pain is to chop the person’s head off.”
  • “As soon as you interact with the patient, you are in their brain.”
  • “Always do more today than you did yesterday.”
This happens, so be mindful of your interaction....Ahh son
This happens, so be mindful of your interaction….Ahh son