Why use Osteopathic "Vascular Normalization Techniques" for you or
Most of the patients that come to our clinic, both human and animals have already seen other well-
qualified, skillful practitioners from either the conventional or alternative worlds of care, sometimes
These patients are:
Searching for alternatives that provide successful, affordable, and long-lasting improvements
in health and well-being
Frustrated with the lack of success or only temporary success of prior treatments
Why Osteopathy? Osteopathy has some fundamental differences in its approach to treatment of an ill/injured person
or animal. Philosophically, osteopathy views the body as one functioning unit that has the capacity
to heal itself (enhancing nature's own ability to heal), when approached by the health practitioner as
a WHOLE-ISTIC unit.
What does this mean? If a patient visits our clinic with a knee injury, for example, we will look at and treat the entire patient,
not only the knee! Our body is made of much more than just joints and muscles alone.
All the cells and tissues of our body, including our bones, fascia, muscles, tendons, blood vessels, vital
organs, and nerves are alive and connected, dependent upon each other for function and survival. They
are continually engaged in dynamic, rhythmic, pulsating motions inside our body. The different organs,
tissues, and even every cell on the microscopic level constantly communicate with each other through
these rhythms, which are essential to the control and function of the different parts of the body. The
circulation of blood, lymph, and cerebral spinal fluid, for example, vary if we are exercising or sitting still,
or are healthy or sick.
What about DISEASE? Disease may occur when the body is not at EASE, which means that the different parts of the body are
no longer functioning smoothly, nor rhythmically working together. Communication in the body breaks
down, and the flow of blood, lymph, and cerebral spinal fluid may diminish in some areas (i.e.,
congestion/stagnation) and be normal in other areas. This lack of normal EASE leads to abnormal
stresses upon the body. These stresses (acute and/or chronic) often lead to DIS-EASE in inherently
weak areas in the body such as sites of genetic "weak links" and/or at the site of physical injury.
What directs FUNCTION in the body? Another major principle of osteopathy is Form directs Function and Function directs Form. The
architecture (FORM) of the body is not an accident; the body is constructed the way it is because the
structure fulfills a specific FUNCTION. When the normal form is altered, not "at ease", by acute or
chronic stresses on the body, the body's function (health) will diminish over time, temporarily
This vast and comprehensive principle from osteopathy will make more sense if we view the body
as having three major Holistic Networks for optimal functioning:
Circulatory network - blood, lymphatic, and cerebrospinal fluids
Neural network - Central, perpheral, and autonomic nervous systems
Connective Tissue (Fascia) network - Extracellular Matrix (collagen/elastin) + gluey ground
The Rule of the Artery!
Andrew T. Still, MD, who founded osteopathy in 1874, addressed disease in all three networks because
he found that this was essential for successful treatment outcomes. He called this most fundamental,
crucially important principle The Rule of the Artery. Our body doesn't function properly if blood and lymph
are not flowing freely and undisturbed. When blood flow is restricted by trauma (physical or emotional),
our tissue health diminishes because of the lack of oxygen, ischemia, nutrients, and our physiological
functions are compromised. Our tissues will contract, twist, and compress. Dysfunctions begin to develop,
and the body starts to slowly decompensate and break down over time.
The Rule of the Artery states that the body will protect different tissues in a Hierarchy of Importance
in order for its tissues to survive:
Cardiovascular and Lymphatic Circulatory Systems, and Fascia
So what happens if an INJURY occurs? The musculoskeletal system preferentially protects around the most important system, the compro-
mised blood and lymph vessels, followed by the nervous system, visceral organs, and endocrine
system. Spasms and cramps of affected muscles lead to restrictions in fascial tissue, which provides
added protection for the compromised tissues.
The importance of FASCIA! The fascia is an important part of the musculoskeletal system. It is comprised of connective tissue
(collagen fibers and ground substance), and surrounds every muscle, organ, nerve, and blood
vessel. Its function is to protect, support, lubricate, and allow smooth movement of the tissues
while balancing forces acting upon the musculoskeletal system throughout the body. The lymphatic
system needs the movement of the lungs and most importantly, the movement of muscles and
fascia to circulate lymph, so it is also affected by changes in the fascia.
In a trauma (acute/chronic) leading to stretching or tearing of local arteries, veins and nerves, the
musculoskeletal system will protect the injured vessels and nerves by contracting the surrounding
muscles (producing spasms) and associated twisting of the fascia.
What happens with an injury? When the body is injured, a cascade of events occurs. Keeping in mind the hierarchy of importance of
the various structures in the body, we will look first at changes in the structure of the blood vessels
and nerves after injury.
The tunica adventitia is the outer layer of the blood vessel, and is mainly made of connective tissue
fibers (fascia). This layer is very flexible and resists outside influences, such as quick and chronic stretch.
The outer layer of the blood vessel is also sensitive to mechanical and chemical stressors. During trauma,
a quick stretch or compression activates the mechanoreceptors in the blood vessel walls, stimulating the
local sympathetic nerves to alert the brain. The blood vessels will then be affected by an increase in
tone from the autonomic nervous sytem, leading to major, three-dimensional vascular dysfunctions,
e.g., spasm of vessel walls (endothelial dysfunctions). The musculoskeletal system will respond (protect)
with spasms in the surrounding muscles as well as twisting, contraction, and compression of the fascia
in the areas surrounding the trauma. These muscular and fascial changes usually affect the whole
structure of the body in several places at once, near the site of the injury as well as more distant areas
of the body connected through myofascial meridians as identified by Thomas W. Myers.
The normal mobility and motility of the body's tissues (allowing the important movements of "glide and
slide" in joints, organs, nerves, and fascia throughout the body) are lost in these affected areas. This
loss of glide and slide results in fascial and mechanical restrictions, such as decrease in the normal
range of motion (ROM) of joints or fascial planes during our physical examination findings. The fascial
and mechanical restrictions are not the primary problem (loss of glide/slide); however, they are the
result of the neurovascular dysfunctions that occurred during the injury. Treatment focusing only
on the mechanical restriction often fails to successfully restore normal function, as the primary
neurovascular problem is not addressed.
Vascular Normalization Techniques (VaNt) When we began to recognize these fascial and mechanical restrictions as the result of neurovascular
dysfunctions in the joint capsular tissues and fascial planes, rather than true mechanical dysfunctions,
we found we needed different techniques to restore function. For example, restoring the normal
mechanical function of a joint means restoring the normal vascular flow and resting level of the nervous
system activity to the blood vessels of the affected joint. These specific manipulation techniques of the
vascular and nervous system are call Vascular Normalization Techniques (VaNt). VaNt techniques rely
on specific reflexes that we have empirically identified. These reflexes are located in certain bones in the
tarsal joint (influencing vascular congestion/dysfunction below the diaphragm, incuding the abdomen,
pelvis, and hind limb); the carpal joint (influencing vascular congestion/dysfunction above the diaphragm,
in the chest, fore limb, and neck); and the hyoid apparatus (influencing vascular congestion/dysfunction
in the head and neck). We have found in our clinical practice that using these reflexes help to restore
the normal movements of the tissues, normalize blood flow, and in genereal encourage restoration of
normal physiological function, alllowing healing to occur!