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Motion Specific Release (MSR) - The Power of Diversity

Updated: Mar 10

Practitioner Examining a Shoulder

What is MSR?

Motion Specific Release (MSR) is a “Treatment System”, combining the benefits of various and diverse therapeutic perspectives. MSR has one singular focus, the resolution of musculoskeletal conditions.

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MSR follows the EPIC paradigm (Evidence-based, People-centred, Interdisciplinary, and Collaborative) in its perspectives. (1) MSR is NOT a technique, it is a treatment system! We did not invent pin-and-stretch, fascial manipulation, acupuncture, joint mobilization, nerve flossing, cross-friction massage, the concept of functional training, or a hundred other techniques. Yet, in MSR, we often integrate and merge many of these methods and concepts into our treatment protocols.

Let’s face it, in some form or another, manual therapy has been around for thousands of years. No matter how many times various technique Guru’s say they "invented a so-called unique technique", it doesn’t make it true. We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. One group claiming singular superiority is like someone claiming they invented Italian cooking simply because they came up with a phenomenal new recipe.

As Aristotle said, “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. This is especially true when treating musculoskeletal conditions. By combining the benefits of diverse treatment perspectives, we can achieve results that would not be possible by using just one singular modality. (2)

MSR is Both Art and Science

Art is often defined as “an expression or application of human creative skill and imagination,” while science is “the pursuit and application of knowledge and understanding of the natural and social world following a systematic methodology based on evidence.”

When we combine the creative nature of art with the systematic methodology of science, we develop a formula for solving complex problems that would not be addressed by using a singular perspective. Creativity brings forward new solutions, while logical methodology brings an objective eye to new solutions.


Dr. Abelson Teaching a Class

The Science

Motion Specific Release (MSR) classes provide a comprehensive and technical academic curriculum that integrates hard medical science with creative approaches to developing effective treatment systems. The following are some of the areas of study that are incorporated into the MSR treatment system:

  • Orthopedic and Neurological Examination: Students are taught to conduct thorough examinations of the musculoskeletal and nervous systems, to accurately diagnose conditions and develop effective treatment plans.

  • Fascial Research: MSR classes cover the latest research in fascial science, including the role of fascia in movement, its relationship to pain and dysfunction, and how it can be manipulated to improve function.

  • Kinetic Chain Relationships: We explore, in detail, the interrelationships between different parts of the body and how these affect movement. Students learn how to identify movement compensations and develop treatment strategies to address them.

  • Myofascial Manipulation: Students learn a variety of techniques for manipulating myofascial tissue, including direct and indirect techniques, and how I am to incorporate these techniques into comprehensive treatment plans.

MSR Class in Progress
  • Fascial Expansions: Employing fascial expansions for managing musculoskeletal conditions offers an effective method that integrates current knowledge of fascia, kinetic chain relationships, and fundamental aspects of acupuncture or traditional Chinese medicine.

  • Osseous Adjusting and Mobilization: Techniques for adjusting and mobilizing joints are explored (techniques used would depend on the student's scope of practice).

  • Traditional Chinese Medicine: Students are taught the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, including the use of acupuncture points, acupressure, and other modalities to treat musculoskeletal conditions.

  • Functional Exercise Programs: Students learn how to develop individualized exercise programs that target specific musculoskeletal conditions and improve overall function. This includes the use of functional movements and exercises that incorporate the principles of neuroplasticity to improve motor control and coordination.

By integrating these diverse areas of study into the MSR treatment system, you gain a comprehensive understanding of musculoskeletal conditions and how to diagnose and treat them effectively.


The Art!

Many healthcare practitioners possess a wealth of untapped creativity. When this intellectual resource is nurtured and developed, it can lead to profound advancements in patient outcomes. Though it may seem counterintuitive, one potential pathway to unlock this creative potential lies in the practice of introspection. This principle, widely acknowledged in Eastern philosophy, is the exact strategy Dr. Abelson, the founder of Motion Specific Release, utilized in his five-decade-long engagement with Tai Chi. Let us explore this concept in further detail.

Image of Hands

The evolutionary process spanning millions of years has equipped our species with a remarkable set of tools – our hands. It would be unwise not to utilize them. Many of the most effective MSR techniques we instruct involve hands-on application.

Replicating the tactile sensitivity of a skilled clinician's hands is incredibly challenging. Our hands can discern differences between anatomical structures and detect limitations in soft tissue and joint mobility. Additionally, we can sense the impediments that hinder one layer of tissue from sliding over another or the nerve traversing through these tissue layers.

Man Performing a Tai Chi Form

Yet as amazing as a clinician’s hands are, there is still considerable room for improvement.

At first, some practitioners are skeptical about Dr. Abelson teaching them Tai Chi techniques until they see the research about how it can make the tactical sensitivity in their hands equivalent to that of a blind person reading Braille.(3,4,11) Imagine how that could improve the palpation skills of a practitioner!

On top of this, when we consider how Tai Chi and meditation are both effective ways of reducing stress (cortisol and other hormones), improving the quality of sleep, and increasing nerve conduction (even in diabetics), then why would they not take advantage of integrating these powerful tools into their practices. (3,4,5,6)

Tai Chi and Clinical Creativity

Creativity, the generation of new and practical ideas, can be a powerful tool for medical practitioners in overcoming complex patient-related problems. Neuroplasticity, derived from the Greek term for "shaped" or "formed," refers to the brain's remarkable ability to change and adapt in response to experience (9). This adaptability is akin to physical fitness, where regular exercise results in improved muscle growth and overall fitness.

Practicing Tai Chi, a mentally and physically invigorating form of exercise, has been shown to benefit individuals, even those with dementia (8). Engaging in Tai Chi and meditation has been found to improve working memory, essential for complex tasks such as reasoning, understanding, and learning (12). Furthermore, Tai Chi has been associated with reduced stress and alterations in brain regions responsible for learning, memory, and emotional regulation, thus improving concentration and cognitive abilities (10).

By strengthening neural connections, clinicians can enhance their cognitive abilities and clinical creativity, leading to the development of innovative solutions for their patients. With over 50 years of dedication as a student, practitioner, and instructor of Tai Chi, Dr. Abelson frequently discusses the significant influence Tai Chi and mindful meditation have had on his well-being and professional practice.


MSR Instructor Miki Burton Smiling

Bottom Line

Motion-Specific Release (MSR) is a treatment system that integrates diverse therapeutic perspectives to resolve musculoskeletal conditions. It follows the EPIC paradigm and integrates areas such as orthopedic and neurological examination, fascial research, kinetic chain relationships, myofascial manipulation, fascial expansions, osseous adjusting, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and functional exercise programs.

Online and live MSR classes offer students a comprehensive understanding of musculoskeletal conditions and how to effectively diagnose and treat them by combining art and science. The use of hands-on techniques, acupuncture points, Tai Chi exercises, and mindful meditation are often integrated into MSR protocols to enhance palpation skills, reduce stress, and improve outcomes

If you would like to learn more about Motion-Specific Release, go to


Photo of Dr. Brian Abelson


Brian Abelson, DC, the Motion Specific Release (MSR) Treatment Systems developer, has been in clinical practice for over 30 years. He founded Kinetic Health, an innovative healthcare facility in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

With 10 publications to his name, Dr. Abelson continues to push the boundaries of musculoskeletal care. In partnership with his wife, Kamali Abelson, BSc, has also developed online courses and teaches live courses to a wide range of practitioners. His dedication to improving patient outcomes and empowering practitioners through education has earned him a reputation as a leader in his field.



  1. Abelson, B., Abelson, K., & Mylonas, E. (2018, February). A Practitioner's Guide to Motion Specific Release, Functional, Successful, Easy to Implement Techniques for Musculoskeletal Injuries (1st edition). Rowan Tree Books.

  2. Aristotle. (1984). The Complete Works of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation (J. Barnes, Ed.). Princeton University Press.

  3. Kong, J., Wang, C., Kwong, K., Vangel, M., Chua, E., & Gollub, R. (2005). The Neural Substrates of Tactile Object Recognition: An fMRI Study on Braille Reading. Brain Research, 1088(1), 81-90.

  4. The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi: 12 Weeks to a Healthy Body, Strong Heart, and Sharp Mind. . Wayne, Peter M., and Mark Fuerst. 2013, Amazon, Shambhala.

  5. Larkey, L., Jahnke, R., Etnier, J., & Gonzalez, J. (2009). Meditative Movement as a Category of Exercise: Implications for Research. Journal of Physical Activity and Health, 6(2), 230-238.

  6. Li, F., Harmer, P., Fisher, K., McAuley, E., Chaumeton, N., Eckstrom, E., & Wilson, N. (2005). Tai Chi and Fall Reductions in Older Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 60(2), 187-194.

  7. Wang, C., Bannuru, R., Ramel, J., Kupelnick, B., Scott, T., & Schmid, C. (2010). Tai Chi on Psychological Well-being: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 10(1), 23.

  8. Wayne, P., Walsh, J., Taylor-Piliae, R., Wells, R., Papp, K., Donovan, N., & Yeh, G. (2014). Effect of Tai Chi on Cognitive Performance in Older Adults: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, 62(1), 25-39.

  9. Zatorre, R., Fields, R., & Johansen-Berg, H. (2012). Plasticity in Gray and White: Neuroimaging Changes in Brain Structure During Learning. Nature Neuroscience, 15(4), 528-536.

  10. Wei, G., Dong, H., Yang, Z., Luo, J., & Zuo, X. (2017). Tai Chi Chuan Optimizes the Functional Organization of the Intrinsic Human Brain Architecture in Older Adults. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 6, 74.

  11. Tactile Acuity in Experienced Tai Chi Practitioners: Evidence for Use Dependent Plasticity as an Effect of Sensory-Attentional Training. Kerr, C. E. 2008, Experiential Brain Research 188, no. 2, pp. 317–22.

  12. Wang, C., Schmid, C., Rones, R., Kalish, R., Yinh, J., Goldenberg, D., & McAlindon, T. (2010). A Randomized Trial of Tai Chi for Fibromyalgia. New England Journal of Medicine, 363(8), 743-754.



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1 Comment

Sep 21, 2021

Much appreciate you sharing this

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