About the Trager Approach

MiltonTrager                                                                    MD Milton Trager – the fouder of the Trager Approach

The Trager Approach is a mind-body approach to movement education. It is a system of gentle, rhythmic movement and touch aimed at facilitating deep relaxation, increased physical mobility, and promoting the body’s optimal performance. There are several aspects of the approach: one in which the client passively receives the movement work on a padded table from a Trager practitioner; and another aspect, in which the client is taught to actively explore comfortable, free movement for themselves, is called Mentastics. Underlying and complementary to the basic aim of psychophysical integration in the Trager Approach, is form of neuromuscular re-education called Reflex Response. This aspect of Dr.Trager’s work actively involves the client in awakening the connection between mind and body. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

How Does It Work?
Trager therapy is based on the theory that discomfort, pain, and a reduced range of movement are physical symptoms caused by accumulated tension. This tension may be the result of trauma, weak posture, fear, emotional blockages, and/or stress. The feelings of lightness, openness, and peace that the Trager technique induces are believed to resonate throughout the nervous system. Not only does this ease tension, but it also changes your unconscious mental and physical experience of movement to one of pleasure rather than pain.

There are two components to the Trager approach. In one part, known as tablework (because the work is done on a special table), the practitioner gently and rhythmically rocks, shakes, and stretches various parts of your body, loosening tight muscles and painful joints. This rhythmic movement gradually induces a state of deep relaxation. Once relaxed, the person experiences just how pleasurable it is to move freely–a key step in learning to break free of the restrictive muscle patterns associated with physical tightness and pain.

In another part of a session, the practitioner teaches you simple sequences of movements, which you can later do at home. Called Mentastics (short for mental gymnastics), these movements are designed to reduce tension and increase physical mobility. Unlike most exercises, which are done to improve strength or endurance, the goal of Mentastics is to achieve a relaxed state of being.

Health benefits
Trager is an easy way to rediscover your balance, experience deep relaxation, joy and freedom.
This approach has proved its efficiency:
-To prevent discomfort due to wrong bodyposture.
-To relieve chronic back and neckproblems, RSI and fibromyalgia.
– As a support for insomnia, depression, chronic tiredness.
– As a precious aid for MS and Parkinson patients.
During revalidation it can offer a special guidance by difficult health treatments.
For sportspeople and dancers it will prevent injuries and improve performancs.
For actors and singers a good balanced body posture, centering and trust will be enhanced.


Milton and Foot b
The Trager approach was developed almost by intuition in the 1920s by Dr. Milton Trager (1908-1997). As a young man growing up in Miami, Trager dabbled in gymnastics and dance, and eventually began boxing. After a workout, he often received a sports massage from his coach. One day Trager offered to give the tired-looking coach a rubdown in return. The man was amazed at how rejuvenated he felt afterward. Trager then tried the same thing on his father, who suffered from chronic sciatica; the sciatica cleared up after two sessions.
These experiences encouraged Trager to begin experimenting widely with massage, treating people with ailments that ranged from back pain to polio. His work eventually led him to become a physical therapist, and he continued to improve and refine his technique. In his fifties, Trager became an M.D., and when he was almost 70 he began to teach his approach to others. In 1980 the Trager Institute was founded in Mill Valley, California, and Trager continued to teach there and throughout the United States and Europe until his death in 1997.
Today the Trager Institute is the only international organization providing certification in Dr. Trager’s method. There are currently some 2,000 Trager practitioners in the United States, Canada, Europe, Israel, Africa, Australia, and Japan.

The Trager approach proved over the years to be particularly useful for relieving the everyday stress that can build up in muscles and joints. With its emphasis on self-awareness skills, this method is especially good for situations in which the physical patterns of stress recur due to ongoing emotional causes. In addition, the particular hands-on technique used by Trager therapists can be especially beneficial for difficult nerve and muscle problems that have not responded to other body-centered approaches, such as chiropractic, massage, or traditional physical therapy.The aim of this therapy is to impart a physical message to the unconscious mind that movement can be effortless. The Trager approach has been found to be particularly useful for chronic neuromuscular ailments, such as back and neck pain, as well as stress-related conditions, such as headache



“Trager® work is an invaluable aid for all singers. It relaxes the throat muscles and positions the larynx for extended range and better breath support. I rely on it.” Linda Ronstadt Singer


Trager® work is one of the least invasive forms of table work using gentle rocking and bouncing motions to induce states of deep, pleasant relaxation. It helps facilitate the nervous system’s communication with the muscles, so that it can be used as a method of rehabilitation especially by people suffering from traumatic injuries, post-polio syndrome, and other chronic neuromuscular problems.”
Andrew Well M.D. Author of Spontaneous Healing, Director, Program in Integrative Medicine, University of Arizona, Tucson

“As a dance/movement therapist and Trager® client I have found this gentle hands on technique creates a sense of openness and centeredness enabling one to explore and revitalize the connection between body mind and spirit.” Kathy Cass Dance Therapistew Well M.D. Author of Spontaneous Healing, Director, Program in Integrative Medicine, University of Arizona, Tucson

Article about: Trager Therapy & Parkinson’s

By: Christian Duval, Brock University, Denis Lafontaine, Alain Leroux, Concordia University; Michel Panisset, McGill University; Jean P. Boucher; University of Quebec/Montreal

Our research group investigates the effects of complementary therapies on the nervous system of healthy individuals and patients with neurological disease. A previous study by Hébert et al. (1998) showed that gentle rocking motion imparted to the leg could modify the reflex responses of healthy subjects.

Whether this reflex modulation is simply due to changes in local spinal reflex circuitry, or the results of altered brain modulation on these reflexes, remains to be determined. This distinction is important in that any change in brain modulation may imply that the sensation associated with the massage alters brain activity. Trager is a form of manual therapy based on the assumption that the therapist is able to establish a communication between him and the unconscious mind (i.e. central nervous system) of the subject.

The limb of interest is supported by the therapist and put into motion: gentle rhythmic rocking motion is manually imparted to the limb and surrounding soft tissues. This type of movement is not painful: the therapist inquired often to ensure that the subject remains comfortable throughout the treatment session. One approach to verify if a manual therapy such as Trager modifies brain activity is to study its effect on the rigidity of patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD). In PD, reflex circuits are modified by altered neural circuits within the basal ganglia; structures that play an important role in movement.

Accordingly, we quantified changes of evoked stretch responses (ESR) in the most rigid arm of patients with PD following Trager therapy. ESR is defined as abnormal electromyographic (EMG) activity when the patient’s muscles are passively stretched.

Gentle rocking motion associated with Trager therapy was imparted to the upper limbs and body of thirty patients for twenty minutes. A pre-test and two post-tests (one and eleven minutes after the treatment, respectively) were performed, consisting of EMG recordings of the flexor carpi radialis and extensor digitorum communis while the patient’s wrist was passively flexed and extended with an amplitude of 60º and a frequency of 1 Hz. Patients received the treatment on the most rigid side of their body (ipsi-group) or on the contralateral side (contra-group). Half of patients in each group received the treatment laying supine on a massage table (ipsi- and contra-supine) or sitting in a chair (ipsi- and contra-sitting).


The above results will be available soon in the peer-reviewed publication: “Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics.” In summary, we found that the level of ESR were significantly reduced by 36 per cent immediately following treatment and remained 32 per cent lower than pre-test values eleven minutes after treatment. Patients who received the treatment lying supine benefited from a 42 per cent reduction of ESR. The side on which the treatment was performed did not significantly influence the outcome of the treatment. However, post hoc analysis of the triple interaction indicated the sitting position was much less efficient for sustained contralateral effect.

Results from the present study strongly suggest that it is possible to modify the level of ESR using Trager therapy. This stretch reflex inhibition is most probably correlated with a reduction of the muscle rigidity seen in these patients. We are presently conducting experiments to quantify directly this reflex modulation following Trager therapy. Our goal is to investigate changes of a specific element of the stretch reflex: the long-latency component. This long-latency reflex is a transcortical reflex that is modified by PD, and believed to by responsible for parkinsonian rigidity. We hope to show that Trager therapy indeed modifies selectively the altered reflexes in PD. Finally, we are in the planning phase (funding search!!!) of a clinical trial that will quantify the long-term effect of Trager therapy on the clinical condition and quality of life of patients with PD. Trager will also be compared with more mainstream complementary therapies such as physiotherapy and exercise. This research is essential if Trager is to ever be considered by physicians as a viable complementary therapy for patients with Parkinson’s disease.


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