What Is Strain-Counterstrain?

Strain-counterstrain is a form of manual therapy used primarily to treat pain and tension in connective tissues and muscles. The school’s techniques involve gentle maneuvering of the body into very specific positions designed to shorten muscles and release tension in an affected area.

The method was founded and developed by Lawrence Jones in the 1960s, and has since become one of the most widely practiced and rigorously tested forms of manual therapy used by physical therapists worldwide.

How it Works

Strain-counterstrain is designed to relax tensed, constricted soft tissue. (For a more technical explanation, see Fascia Dysfunction further down.) By putting parts of the body into positions that shorten the affected muscles for a short period of time (typically 90 seconds), this soft tissues releases, relieving the associated tension and inflammation.

Strain-Counterstrain Effects

  • decreased inflammation
  • decreased pain
  • decreased swelling
  • decreased tension
  • increased range of motion
  • relaxation of fascia
  • restored strength


Because pain in any part of the body may be caused by several different dysfunctional parts, using a single strain-counterstrain technique alone will usually not alleviate pain altogether. Depending on the severity and complexity of the patient’s condition, a large number of techniques may need to be used for effective treatment. As such, it’s important for the therapist to have a broad and detailed knowledge of strain-counterstrain techniques.

In Yakima, the staff at Central Washington Physical Therapy specializes in strain-counterstrain. Over the years, they have used these techniques to help hundreds of people in the Yakima Valley return to their normal lifestyles.

Fascia Dysfunction

The original and primary focus of strain-counterstrain is to correct dysfunction of the fascia, a type of connective tissue within the body. Fascial tissue can be thought of as a protective sheath around muscles and organs, providing them with support and separation from other parts of the body. Like any other component of the body, it can sometimes function improperly.

Fascia is designed to contract under stress to protect its contents. However, certain conditions such as excessive trauma can sometimes cause the fascia to fail to relax after contracting. As the tissue constricts whatever lies underneath it, a large number of issues can arise. (For example, it may restrict a vessel carrying a fluid called lymph, causing swelling in the area.) Symptoms that the patient may experience under such conditions include pain, swelling, inflammation, stiffness, and weakness.

The reason strain-counterstrain techniques alone can relieve so many symptoms is that fascial constriction can affect several different systems. As the therapist causes the fascia to release and normal function underneath is restored, the patient will often experience a decrease in pain and swelling and an increase in range of motion and strength.

If you suffer from muscle or joint pain, strain-counterstrain treatment may help you find relief. Contact us below to get started.