Neuro Emotional Technique (NET)...False Reliance?

19 January 2019

Neuro Emotional Technique (NET) has been described as an intervention that incorporates principles of several health disciplines, such as cognitive behavioural psychology, traditional Chinese medicine pulse assessment and muscle testing. The premise of using NET is to remove neurological ‘abnormalities’ that have a pathophysiological pattern. The theory is that the reduction or removal of stress or emotional trauma will normalize these irregular patterns through a physical correction. However, whether or how NET can accomplish this eradication of a conditioned response is not known or established. In fact, the science to validate this theory is quite poor and tends to be regarded as pseudoscience.

Is it really possible to assess psychological factors that are affecting strength, flexibility or movement patterns? With regards to linking muscle testing to psychological status, whilst there is a growing body of literature correlating somatic symptoms and traumatic life events, the ability to pinpoint the exact location of these symptoms passively using NET is unreliable and is more a subjective experience. Considering that this is the underlying belief of NET and cannot be substantiated, then any short-term beneficial effects that may result from treatment may either be coincidental or be attributed to placebo effect. Not to mention that there is insufficient evidence for diagnostic accuracy within kinesiology, the validity of muscle response and the effectiveness of kinesiology for any condition. A 2008 review of the literature showed that standards of reporting were extremely low and that there is no quality, unbiased study to date to determine whether kinesiology has any clinical value. Any positive research appears to have been financially assisted by the research arm of NET, which casts serious doubt on its reliability. One 2012 report defining Applied Kinesiology states that ‘as of yet, MMT efficacy in therapy localization and challenge techniques has not been established in published, peer-reviewed research.’

So let’s look at what is purported to be happening during an NET session: It supposedly engages the energy system as it is conceived in the traditional Chinese medical model. This entails the patients touching a relevant pulse point on the wrist that is determined to be involved in the body's stress reaction to a given stimuli. Using principles of traditional Chinese five-element theory, the therapist helps the patient identify the particular pulse point using an application of major energy channels, or 'meridians', that contain specific emotional qualities. In the NET framework it is thought that the engagement of the body's energy system in the cognitive-emotional processing of an event facilitates a resolution to the event. The aim is to help patients become less physiologically reactive to distressing stimuli and to become more competent in choosing alternative responses. NET is intended to be a brief, time-limited intervention. This is related to a patient’s perceived level of pain at certain pressure points and/or muscle testing before and after treatment.

The questions that need to be asked here are:

  • Does this treatment equate to long term improvements in:
  1. Subjective pain measurements?
  2. Feelings of stiffness?
  3. Functional outcomes?
  4. Catastrophisation/fear avoidance behaviour?
  5. Robustness?
  6. Resilience?
  7. Proprioceptive awareness?
  8. Pain pressure thresholds

There is no doubt that physical and cognitive patterns can develop after a traumatic memory. Shouldn’t we then be obligated to employ reputable services of a qualified Psychologist/Psychotherapist to utilize Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Cognitive Functional Therapy or Exposure Therapy in conjunction with treatment to achieve the same outcome in a more clear, measureable, reliable way?

What about neuroplasticity? The short-term specific changes that occur after a NET session (if they occur) will not drive long-term plastic changes to the brain and spinal cord that will bring about improvements in pain and long-term outcomes.

Long-term effects of strength training are well documented and validated whereas NET is short-term – why would you pay someone to do this? Question your NET specialist – do these short-term improvements in strength compare favourably to long-term effects of general strength training and the effects listed above? The only measure used to confirm effective treatment during a consultation is muscle testing, however this is very short-lived. How long following a treatment is this result sustained? Is it a matter of minutes or hours?

In a 2012 pilot study, exercise and spinal manipulation performed slightly better than NET for improving function and decreasing pain, although not shown to be clinically significant. It has also been shown to be unreliable for assessing nutrient status, thyroid dysfunction or nutritional intolerance. Another 2008 study showed 100% of participants did not recognize a sham kinesiology treatment even when they were familiar with the therapy and could not distinguish between real treatment and sham treatment.

Our belief is that a treatment which is passively administered within a clinic room has much less efficacy than one in which the client is actively involved and facilitated by the practitioner in creating the changes necessary to affect real results. The reliance on the clinician is minimal when the power is in the client’s hands and only then can true improvements be experienced. NET – Not Exactly True.

References:

  1. Hall S, Lewith G, Brien S, Little P: A Review of the Literature in Applied and Specialised Kinesiology. Forsch Komplementmed 2008;15:40-46. doi: 10.1159/000112820
  2. Hall S, Lewith G, Brien S, Little P: An Exploratory Pilot Study to Design and Assess the Credibility of a Sham Kinesiology Treatment. Forsch Komplementmed 2008;15:321-326. doi: 10.1159/000170401
  3. Bablis P, Pollard H: Neuroemotional Technique for the treatment of trigger point sensitivity in chronic neck pain sufferers: A controlled clinical trial, Chiropractic & Osetopathy 2008:16:4. doi:10.1186/1746-1340-16-4
  4. Peterson C D, Haas M and Gregory W T, A Pilot Randomized controlled trial comparing the efficacy of exercise, spinal manipulation and neuro emotional technique for the treatment of pregnancy-related low back pain, 2012, Chiropractic & Manual Therapies; 20:18; doi:10.1186/2045-709X-20-18
  5. Pothmann, R., von Frankenberg, S., Hoicke, C., Weingarten, H., & Lüdtke, R. (2001). Evaluation of applied kinesiology in nutritional intolerance of childhood. Complementary Medicine Research, 8(6), 336–344. doi:10.1159/000057250