Tragerwork is a bodywork technique originally developed by Dr. Milton Trager. Dr. Trager was a physican, acrobat, boxer, dancer, and follower of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (See Ayurveda page). His technique is also known as the Trager approach, Trager, or Trager psychophysical integration. It is sometimes specifically recommended for people with neurological disorders, including MS.
Tragerwork aims to alter the body habits that produce muscle pain and limit movement. During a treatment session, a therapist massages, shakes, bounces, and rocks the body of the individual undergoing treatment. These movements are designed to induce relaxation and allow for easier, more graceful movements. Therapists also instruct individuals in mentastics, or “mental gymnastics.” Mentastics is a self-directed routine of exercises aimed at maintaining the feelings produced during treatment.
Evaluation in MS and Other Conditions
Some have recommended Tragerwork specifically for people with MS, but no well conducted studies have evaluated its effectiveness in MS. Anecdotal reports exist of individuals with MS benefiting from this treatment, but few studies have been published demonstrating its effectiveness in any medical condition. One small study found Tragerwork helped improve some measures of lung function in people with lung disease. However, these results are difficult to interpret due to the small size of the study and the lack of a placebo-treated control group. Another study looked at Tragerwork as a treatment for headache. This study, which lacked a placebo group, reported that those treated with Tragerwork had a decrease in headache frequency, improvement in quality of life, and reduction in headache medication use. Another study looked at people with spinal cord injuries who also suffered from shoulder pain associated with using a wheelchair. This study found that shoulder pain decreased in people treated with either Tragerwork or acupuncture.
The effects of Tragerwork have not been well established. The treatment seems to be generally well tolerated, but some with MS may feel a sense of dizziness or nausea when undergoing the rocking movements in therapy sessions.
Tragerwork is generally considered safe. Treatment is of moderate cost. The possible benefits of Tragerwork have not been clearly established for people with MS. Some preliminary studies in other conditions suggest it may help with headaches, shoulder pain, and lung function.
References and Additional Reading
Bowling AC. Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Multiple Sclerosis. New York: Demos Medical Publishing, 2007, pp. 209-211.
Dyson-Hudson TA. Acupuncture and Trager psychophysical integration in the treatment of wheelchair user’s shoulder pain in individuals with spinal cord injury. Arch Phys Med Rehabil 2001;82:1038.
Foster KA, Liskin J, Cen S, et al. The Trager approach in the treatment of chronic headache: a pilot study. Alt Ther Health Med 2004;10:40–46.
Juhan D. Multiple sclerosis: The Trager approach. Trager Newsletter. February 1993;1-7.
Witt PL, MacKinnon J. Trager psychophysical integration. A method to improve chest mobility of patients with chronic lung disease. Phys Ther 1986; 66:214–217.