Hendrickson Method

What is it?

Hendrickson Method is a unique and comprehensive system of soft-tissue manipulation derived by Tom Hendrickson, a US based Chiropractor, over the last twenty years. His method combines the latest research in energy medicine (Oschmann 2000) with a form of low impact massage stroke derived from Tai Chi called Wave Mobilization (WM) and very specific Muscle Energy Techniques (METs). Hendrickson's soft-tissue manipulation (STM) is grounded in the science of cell biology, the study of postural dynamics of the body's attempts to withstand gravitational forces upon it, a tensegrity model of body structures and neuro-muscular theory.

Who developed it?

Tom Hendrickson studied extensively under American physical therapist Lauren Berry and adapted his methods to a softer version and developed the scientific rationale for the various components of the method.

What conditions is it good for treating?

Hendrickson method (HM) allows massage therapists and body-workers to work confidently and effectively with a broad range of chronic and acute musculo-skeletal clinical conditions. They often get results with difficult to treat or slow responding conditions, or where manipulation alone has not been effective. It enables massage therapy to be a frontline clinical modality and can be adopted for a range of areas of application varying from the sports clinic to degenerative joint conditions, age related soft-tissue situations, rehabilitation post-operative work and acute episodes of chronic conditions, etc. It is useful in the context of preventive medicine to protect joints from excessive wear and tear because of distorted use patterns (RSI). Furthermore, because it can be both gentle to give or receive, it is very useful for delicate or vulnerable clients who either might have been exposed to more robust or challenging forms of physical modalities or need a gentler touch.

The method also has a lot to offer for those who want to work with a mind-body awareness and want to explore tensions in their bodies through a direct mind-body-emotion process. It can be used as part of a stress management or personal development perspective.

Further because of the energy model behind the methods this modality opens up ways of treating the whole person within the context of a physical modality.

What is the evidence base that supports its effectiveness?

Tom Hendrickson has developed his work over twenty years and trained many fellow practitioners who have given thousands of treatments globally. Feedback from those treatments has helped develop the training.

Although formal evaluation of the method (through collation of patient outcomes or controlled studies) has yet to be conducted the work is grounded in conventional medical science. Wherever possible published material (either standard medial science anatomy text books or peer reviewed journal articles) is referred to to substantiate the method or the theoretical approach from within orthodox anatomy and physiology i.e. one part of the evidence base for the method is the rationale for the method from within orthodox anatomy and physiology as taught in standard medical texts.

The first two chapters of Hendrickson's book 'Massage and Manual Therapy for Orthopeadic Conditions' details the theory and rationale for the techniques, and account of the mechanisms of tissue injury and repair.

Each subsequent chapter of reviews the known causes of pathology for that body region and gives a rationale for the treatment. For instance, the chapter on the lumbosacral spine records that Low Back Pain (LBP) pain is the second leading condition for which patients consult primary care physicians in the USA. Furthermore, that disorders of the low back are the leading cause of disability in younger people (below 45 years of age) and LBP is a common cause of (50% of US adult population) everyday discomfort and pain, yet no less than 80% of that recorded level of pathology is due to non-specific causes i.e. no one cause is known. However at least 98% of LBP cases are a result of mechanical disorders of the spine, in other words the problem is to do with function rather than structure, and as sustained muscle contraction is a primary cause of dysfunction and pain, the presentation of low back pain puts it into the category of conditions for which a tissue-based approach is relevant. Hendrickson cites a 2003 analysis (Cherkin et al) of treatments for LBP which indicated that massage therapy was effective for persistent back pain.

This correlates with the well known phenomena of the lack of definitive diagnostic capacity of scans of any description, and the link between LBP and a range of non-medical conditions including low mood. In essence what we know of the etiology of LBP would support a soft-tissue (ST) patient management regime.

Further international evidence supports physical therapy for a range of conditions and in the UK the National Institute for Clinical Evidence (NICE) supports the use of physical therapies in the management of non-specific low back pain,

Hendickson Method (HM) though is perhaps unique in synthesising anatomical and physiological (AP) knowledge and applying it effectively to soft tissue and joint problems, for example using the arthrokinetic reflex, the laws of reciprocal inhibition and ideas of tensegrity to treat muscle imbalance and functional problems. It is this application of AP laws to effective therapeutic regimes that gives HM it's solid basis in medical science.

What are the risks and benefits of treatment?

The risks are transitory treatment soreness within normal acceptable limits. The benefits are increased physical mobility, greater functionality, pain reduction and increased kinaesthetic awareness of the body to help prevent further injury or damage.

Are there any side-effects from the treatment?

As above.

How many sessions does it need?

Many conditions can be dealt with within a short programme of work i.e. about six to ten sessions on average. More complex or long standing conditions will require longer depending on the severity and client need. However, depending on the tissues involved, full functional recovery will depend on the length of time needed to rebuild damaged tissue and the willingness of the patient to engage in a progressive programme of rehabilitation.

Acute episodes of chronic conditions can characteristically be dealt with quicker once the initial injury has been dealt with.

How long do sessions need to be?

Session are usually between 40 minutes and one hour.

How many practitioners need to be available?

HM Therapy is typically conducted as a one to one therapy although there might be advantage sometimes in having two practitioners present in cases of severe disability.

Does it need follow-up support? If so what, how often, by whom...?

Depending on personal circumstances (e.g. levels of personal activity, risk of re-injury, age and levels of active self-care) bodies will either maintain the gains achieved by the therapy or will need occasional maintenance. The Hendrickson practitioner will advise on risks of re-injury and level of maintenance required for each individual patient.

How does it work as a self-care tool?

HM works as part of re-educating the patient about their body so that the individual work can be supported by personal self-care either through exercise, stress management, movement or developing mind-body awareness. It combines well with most other modalities that TSHP offers, including Meir Schneider Self-Healing and Stress Illness Recovery Programme.

What is the best way for teaching the self-care techniques?

The only way to learn it is through personal treatment, although there is good support through the standard instructional text-book.

Some elements can be taught as self-care in a group context.

Where can Hendrickson methods be accessed?

Thrugh TSHP in Merseyside. The UK Register of Hendrickson trained therapists is accessible through Flexible Healing (www.flexible-healing.co.uk), a UK training organisation licensed by Tom Hendrickson to develop his work within the UK