The Five Tenets of Dynamic Neuromuscular Assessment™

The Five Tenets of Dynamic Neuromuscular Assessment™

~ Keeping the container safe

~ Manual muscle testing can and will produce skewed results

~ Global / Local / Global

~ Secondary Compensation distracts us from the Prime Driver

~ Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand, the SAID principle is our ally in efficiency

Tenet #1: Keeping the Container Safe

The context of the word container is appropriated from psychology. The container refers to the available coping strategies we have learned as a protection mechanism. Keeping the container safe builds safety in the nervous system through displacement rather than replacement. What does this mean?

Within a therapeutic setting, we are ultimately assessing how our clients’ nervous systems (containers) are adapting to their environment. Our nervous systems have three ways in which to adapt to our environmental stress: beneficially, neutrally, and maladaptively. In the therapeutic context, we are not so much concerned with beneficial or neutral strategies. Instead we are looking for maladaptive strategies so that we can employ the corrective therapeutic intervention. While at one point that strategy had been necessary and appropriate, maladaptive strategies are not sustainable and lead to secondary maladaptive compensation.

Here’s the problem:

We cannot simply remove a maladaptive coping strategy. This creates a void in the container. That void is then replaced with something. More often than not, that “something” is maladaptive as well and potentially has an adverse outcome.

Here’s the solution:

We must honor the survival-based strategies of the nervous system. We must with clear intention displace a maladaptive strategy with a beneficial coping strategy.

There are several steps in learning the how and why behind the template we use in Dynamic Neuromuscular Assessment™ (DNA™). Understanding the nature of compensation and how to have a conversation with the nervous system sets the foundation for all of our assessment strategies.

Let’s explore the nature of maladaptive compensation further. The needs of the changing environment, an event, prompts a response from our nervous system. The initial response becomes the prime driver. When the nervous system perceives that the prime driver doesn’t have sufficient energy to sustain the adaptation, it will then recruit more compensatory players. These are referred as secondary compensations. Their role is to boost the energy level of the prime driver.

If we remove a secondary compensation, we are potentially weakening the prime driver. This is effectively creating a void in the container. The analogy of the three-legged stool works well. If we kick out a leg of the stool, a secondary compensation, the stool often becomes unstable and crashes.

The nervous system has many options for filling the void created by removing secondary compensation. The trine of Applied Kinesiology: movement and structure, physiology and subtle body energy, and limbic associations and emotions become the subsets of options that the nervous system can utilize to boost the energy of the weakened prime driver. This is potentially disastrous when the nervous system chooses an energy system from our physiology or limbic associations. When we see our clients having adverse response to treatments, this is often what is happening.

The template we use in Dynamic Neuromuscular Assessment™ addresses this in multiple ways. Module One is entirely devoted to acquiring the nuances of how to safely have a conversation with the nervous system. When we can effectively have a conversation with the nervous system, then we can recognize the markers needed to maintain a safe container, both for our client and for ourselves as practitioners.

Tenet #2: Manual Muscle Testing Can and Will Produced Skewed Results

Manual Muscle Testing (MMT) while useful, often gets a bad rap. Perhaps for good reason. Practitioners are getting varied results creating confusion which limits how effectively we can provide proper treatment for clients.

Here is the problem:

Practitioners are getting skewed results from MMT. One source of the confusion is with the practitioner themselves, and the other is from the interpretation of response from the client.

Here is the solution:

Practitioners need to be trained in the many nuances of manual muscle testing.

The first thing that we must realize as practitioners is that we can and do affect the outcome of our MMT. Unresolved trauma, both structural and limbic can skew the results. Our expectations and projections, both conscious and unconscious, also impact testing results. To resolve this, we must be our own client first. Our own personal journey becomes a resource when working with clients. We can’t take a client through a process that we haven’t gone through ourselves.

The second cause of the skewed response is related to the information we are getting from the client. Manual Muscle Testing is evaluating a response by the nervous system. In the case of feed-back style assessment, the practitioner is providing stimulus to which the client responds. The results can contain a skewed response and as practitioners we need to further vet this. There are two false positives and one false negative that regularly show up in our assessments. If these are not vetted, our correlation of relationship and causation will be skewed.

We need a specific process or protocol to determine when the movement response gives us faulty data. There are several potentials for faulty data.

Practitioner Skill:

–        How we connect with the nervous system of our client is highly nuanced. The practitioner’s intention combined with the myriad of our client’s receptors are in conversation. The outcome of that conversation is reflective of the practitioner’s skill in the conversation.

Neurological Inputs of our Client:

–        Our client’s neurological inputs are a source of skewed information. The afferent signal is interdependent with the efferent response from the nervous system. Good input / Good output, and Poor input / Poor output. This is why we start with a progression of neurological input and response, or we ask if the nervous system can appropriately respond.

Dynamic Neuromuscular Assessment™ is a template we apply to first evaluate the nervous system’s ability to respond, and then evaluate the ability of the structure to respond. The development of a practitioner’s skill at recognizing the nuances of MMT is a priority in the Module One seminar. The protocols we use allows the practitioner to identify when the two false positives and/or the one false negative show up. This can only be achieved with hybrid movement assessment using a combination of direct and indirect strategies to double check our clients’ response to movement.

Tenet #3: Global / Local / Global

A global / local / global assessment strategy has many advantages. The primary advantage is that global assessment gives the nervous system the opportunity to capitalize on the primary compensation. This allows the practitioner to quickly vet out dysfunctional movement.

Here is the problem:

When we use a local / local / local model of assessment, we are using a hit or miss approach. This is akin to looking for a needle in a haystack.

Here is the solution:

We use global assessment strategies to quickly vet out the prime driver of dysfunction. A global assessment strategy completes the feedback loop. When the client initiates a movement, the nervous system capitalizes on available movement strategies. This cues the primary driver of maladaptive compensation.

A global assessment is made up of multiple local components. These local components become the building blocks for the more complex global movements. As we vet out the local components, we can get very specific to the nature of the primary driver. The possibilities follow the trine of Applied Kinesiology: movement and structure, physiology and subtle body energy, and limbic associations and emotions.

The first global assessment gets us in the right neighborhood. Assessment of the local components gets us to the right house. As we continue with the process we end up in the right room, in the right house in the right neighborhood.  This lays the foundation for extremely efficient assessment.

After we have thoroughly vetted the primary driver, restored normal response, we can then insert that back into the global movement for re-evaluation. The global local global approach is much faster at vetting the primary driver of maladaptive compensation.

Tenet #4: Secondary Compensation Will Distract Us from The Prime Driver

When we are evaluating movement, every dysfunction has the potential of encompassing multiple pieces. How we trace, or map, the dysfunctional components makes a difference in the outcome.

Here is the problem:

Secondary compensation will distract us from the prime driver.

Here is the solution:

Mapping is a process of correlating all the pieces in the presentation of our client. We must treat each piece as a potential symptom and completely vet the presentation before we employ a corrective strategy. This relates back to the first consideration, we do not want to remove a secondary coping strategy as that creates vulnerability in the container.

The mapping process we use in Dynamic Neuromuscular Assessment™ specifically vets the dysfunctions to arrive at the primary driver of maladaptive compensation for any given movement.  The process of our intake, history, and symptoms starts to build the map. Then we utilize global assessment strategies to get us in the right neighborhood. Next we start to vet out the local components. This gets us to the rights house. When we arrive at the specifics of the prime driver, we are in the right room, in the right house, in the right neighborhood.

When we are mapping, we consider the symptom / causation relationship. For every symptom there is a causation. That causation is potentially a symptom of something else. We want to map out these correlations till we reach the greatest common denominator. How many layers are there to any given dysfunction? I like to call this following the bread crumbs. Each piece of the puzzle becomes a clue that leads you to the next piece.

This needs to be illustrated. I’ll do this in generic terms for simplicity.

Movement: movement refers to a function of movement/s or a specific stim to a receptor.

Space: space refers to where the correlation point is therapy localized. That space needs to be vetted to qualify the specifics of the nature of the disruption, ie. is it structural, physiological, or limbic?


Global Assessment, GA:
The GA revealed a maladaptive compensation ~ the correlation was to a limbic association (emotion)

Local Components:

– Movement A revealed maladaptive compensation ~ the correlation was to Space D
– Movement B revealed maladaptive compensation ~ the correlation was to Space C

– Movement C revealed maladaptive compensation ~ the correlation was to Space D
– Now we evaluate Space D

– Movement D revealed maladaptive compensation ~ the correlation was to Space E

– Now we evaluate Space E

– Movement E revealed maladaptive compensation ~ the correlation was to a limbic association

– The limbic association is the same association as the global assessment association. We have now gone full circle and thoroughly vetted the primary driver, the limbic association.

– If we address the limbic association in Space E, and appropriately cue movements A, B, and C, we will have corrected the true source of the global movement dysfunction.

This brings us back to the first tenet, keeping the container safe. If we were to follow the local / local / local model of the “treat what you find” paradigm, after testing Movement A and Space D Therapy Localized, we would have done a tissue release or correction in Space D. Space D is a secondary compensation. This would be kicking the leg out from the three-legged stool. The void in the coping strategy would potentially drive the input volume up on Space E, and the limbic association. When people are having limbic reactions to a therapeutic intervention, it is because the primary driver is not being appropriately addressed. Instead they are removing the stability needed by the secondary compensation. This is an important safety issue! We need to make sure that we address the highest priority driver of the dysfunction.

Initially this process may seem like the tortoise and the hare approach. The hare would be treating what you find approach. The tortoise looks at the complete presentation before using laser focused corrective strategies that have the most impact with the least amount of intervention while maintaining the first tenet, keeping the container safe.

Tenet #5: Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand, the SAID principle is our ally in efficiency

The SAID principle is affecting the outcome of our work. When we optimally utilize the SAID principle, we maximize the beneficial change of the nervous system’s response to movement with a minimal amount of manual intervention.

Here is the problem:

The nervous system is interpreting the information it receives. When that interpretation is incomplete, less than optimal results are achieved with a therapeutic strategy.

Here is the solution:

When we use the mapping process to accurately identify the prime driver of movement dysfunction, we then have a template to cue the nervous system to utilize the therapeutic strategy for optimal results.

The preliminary steps we take during our evaluation process affects the outcome. The process of mapping creates clarity of our client’s presentation. The cause and effect of the symptom-causation relationship to the events that have occurred in that person’s experience are all are taken into consideration. With a complete map, we can identify the primary driver, and/or we can identify a safe entry point. Sometimes the primary driver is too big and gnarly for the client’s inner resources to appropriately respond to appropriately. In that case we must incrementally build trust in the nervous system’s capacity to respond. This is especially true for limbic associations. We must be careful not to remove a needed secondary compensation.

When we utilize the SAID principle in our corrective strategies, we can achieve the optimal beneficial change with minimal intervention. The specific way we cue the nervous system affects the outcome. When we appropriately cue the nervous system, then the nervous system has an understanding of how all pieces interrelate.

If we have not cued the nervous system appropriately, then the nervous system must interpret the what, how, and why of the pieces fitting together. Often, the nervous system is unable to fill in the gaps. When this happens, our corrective strategy will be temporary at best. This is why clients will return with the same presentation over and over. The nervous system is not getting enough information to make a sustainable lasting change. Instead, when the environment load increases beyond capacity, the nervous system returns to a familiar coping strategy or creates a new one.

The SAID principle is our ally in efficiency. When we thoroughly map our clients presentation and cue the nervous system to the pieces of the puzzle, our corrective strategies can achieve optimal results. Capitalizing on the SAID principle allows the practitioner to work smarter, not harder. Ultimately, it is a win win for practitioner and client alike.

Case Study: This excerpt is from a recent DNA™ Module One proficiency exam

Intention: Assessment of the breathing apparatus

Global Skill: QiGong Posture

Visual: appears that the diaphragms move out of alignment creating a lack of integrity in the core cylinder

MMT: Functional Dysfunctional Response: Correlation to Limbic Association

Local Components:

Sacral Spinalis / multifidus –   normally responsive

TVA –                                       normally responsive

Pelvic Floor –                           functional dysfunctional

Vet Pelvic Floor:

Structural – L sub-occipitals TL

Vet L sub-occipitals – functional dysfunctional

Structural – R jaw TL

Vet R Jaw – functional dysfunctional

Limbic Association TL- same association as the global movement association

Double check our work:

Client TL’s the R Jaw

Retest PF and L sub-occipitals

Normal Response


Cue the associated movements into the nervous system (order matters)

Limbic hold on the Bennett points (cranial hold, observe the breath)

Retest: (in the same order)

PF                               normal response

Sub-occipitals normal response

Jaw                             normal response

Re-insert local components back into the Global Movement

Normal Response!


First consideration is to keep the container safe. We added stability into the system. We did not remove coping strategies creating vulnerability. The old MMT paradigm would indicate that we should have released sub-occipitals. If we would have tried to correct a dysfunctional component that is correlated to a limbic association, potentially the volume of that limbic input would increase. That would have essentially kicked the third leg out of the three-legged stool.

Limbic associations can have multiple layers mirroring the template of compensations with primary and secondary/s, so we toned down the association. We did not necessarily remove or clear. We toned it down so that the nervous system could appropriately respond to the environment. While there may be more work needed to effect sustainable change,with one corrective, we restored movement function to all the local components and the initial global assessment. That could not have happened if we did not utilize the SAID principle in our assessment and correction.