Paul St. John Interview Part 1 – Building Blocks of Neurosomatic Therapy

Paul St. John was serving his country in the Vietnam War as a Green Beret when his helicopter was shot down by enemy fire. St. John survived the crash but broke three transverse processes in his low back. He was rushed to the Cam Ranh Army hospital. After a couple of months, he was sent back to the unit in Natrang, though he was still in pain.

As part of a Mobile Strike Force, St. John cooperated with the Montagnard tribesmen in the Central Highlands, a mountainous area of Vietnam. He was impressed with the way the tribesmen were so acquainted with their environment, not from a tactical standpoint; the tribesman understood how to use natural elements in their environment for healing. The tribesmen knew which leaves could be eaten to cure stomach ailments, which soils were could heal jungle rot. St. John says, “I realized then that nobody―no culture, no particular practice―has a monopoly on healing.”

With numbness and burning in his legs and back and debilitating headaches, St. John was led by the Montagnards to 85 year-old Chinese physician, Dr. Phong, who recognized that St. John’s tailbone was bent forward, as was his head. “Of course I had no knowledge of that anatomy then,” St. John explains. But he would soon learn. Dr. Phong released the muscles around St. John’s coccyx bone, which instantly caused the frontal bone in his skull to pop out, relieving the pressure in his head. He didn’t tell his fellow soldiers about the experience, as they’d told him he was crazy for going to Dr. Phong in the first place. But the treatment worked like magic. After that experience―his first with structural body work―St. John became aware that there was plenty to be learned from other systems of medicine.

War was traumatic and the transition back into society felt unnatural. St. John needed a cleansing of sorts―a way to dispose of the emotional trauma of war, and he found a way to do so, figuratively and literally, as a city of St. Petersburg trash man. Hauling a ton or two of garbage a day gave him an opportunity to clear his mind as he performed the physical labor.

Paul St. JohnPaul St. John was healing emotionally but physically, he had a major setback. It was 1971 and one day on the way to the airport to pick up a friend, St. John was hit by another driver. The car accident reactivated his previous injuries. “I was really hurt,” he says, “and decided to visit a friend of mine from the military who I thought might be able to help me.” His friend, a chiropractor named Raymond Nimmo, treated St. John for his injuries with positive results. It bolstered his interest in medicine once again, but St. John didn’t want to go back to college. He’d already received training at the University of Rochester as an X-ray tech and radiation therapist before Vietnam. He decided to attend the Gainesville School of Massage to become a massage therapist, specializing in treatment of pain.

St. John was injured in a second car accident, which caused him to become, as he puts it, “fascinated with pain, itself.” This time his treatment revealed another insight: Chiropractors emphasized bones and nerves, but the problem was in his soft tissues. He started going to the USF library to soak up every bit of information he could about soft tissue pain. He studied the concepts introduced by Dr. Janet C. Travell, who specialized in trigger points and happened to be President John F. Kennedy’s personal physician. St. John was amazed with the idea that you could squeeze your trapezius, and it resulted in relief of pain in your right eye. He began developing techniques, understanding that origins and insertions are critically important to consider when treating muscles. And finally, he relieved his own pain. He says, “I had an acute awareness between form and function, and I became aware of gravitational planes. From that point, I began looking at what it would take to realign a person back on these structural planes.”

St. John explains, “The average NASCAR driver knows more about the relationship between form and function than some physicians. They know just a small adjustment will make your car all over the speedway. The body was created to be in structural balance.” Next, he explored bodies in motion, i.e. movement patterns. Specifically studying the cross pattern, he saw heads waving right to left, front to back―very abnormal and aberrant patterns. He had to re-pattern people. Even if patients corrected their posture while standing statically, their body would remember the detrimental pattern once they walked, and it would undo the therapy. He re-trained people to walk in a cross pattern and walk symmetrically. Through these therapies, he discovered the culprit of many affected cross patterns―leg length inequity. He began formulating a series of measurements to identify the inequities. (Current data tells us that 57% of people are walking around with a 5 millimeter or more difference in leg length.)

Now nearly 20 years after his journey into pain management began, the building blocks of Neurosomatic Therapy were in place. Next, St. John wanted to look at how to correct limb inequities. Osteopaths and chiropractors used heel lifts. St. John wondered, “If you have a leg that’s short, why wouldn’t you lift up the whole leg? That’s what should be done because it’s the heel that creates rotation in the body.” By questioning conventional medical wisdom, St. John was putting himself out there. But he knew, structurally, it made sense. He had his patients use full-foot lifts if their leg lengths differed by more than 6 millimeters. The patients gained atlas stability and reported instantaneous well-being.

Paul St. John’s experiences with both physical and emotional pain led him down a path of discovery. His groundbreaking work with soft tissue manipulation and total body alignment resulted in the creation of a holistic approach to alleviate pain―Neurosomatic Therapy.

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Do you guys know what you've given me? I am so busy! In the last year I have done more solid good for people in my community than I did in the previous 5 years I spent as an active EMT. I'm serious. Shocked and regularly awed and dead serious. So, thank you! I owe my thanks to Randy, Paul, Kevin, and Ramona and your folks and everyone there. I really REALLY love my job. :) Thank you! Mimi F. - Salt Lake City, UT

The teachers and assistants were excellent. As a long time student of many subjects revolving around anatomy, I was in awe of the incredible depth of their knowledge. Each complimented the other’s strengths extremely well, making for an impressive team of caring and intelligent educators. Scott P. - Los Angeles, CA

Extended classes are the way to go. It makes it cohesive, so one can see how the parts fit together. I thought the course was fantastic—I simply loved it. I love learning, but this course went far beyond that. I found it truly inspiring to see what is possible. mary pVreni G. - Vancouver, BC.