Margaret Rood – OT Pioneer

Margaret S. Rood was trained and registered in both occupational and physical therapy. She developed her theory in the 1950s and continued to refine it up to her retirement in the 70s. Her theory is considered to have been way ahead of its time. Her level of comprehension appears to have gone beyond that of the average clinician. 

Although Margaret Rood didn’t write much of her work down, she taught her theory extensively. It has therefore continued to be developed and refined to the present day.

Root’s basic hypothesis may be paraphrased as: appropriate sensory stimulation can elicit specific motor responses (Guy L. McCormack). 

Root combined controlled sensory stimulation with sequences of motor development of an organism from fertilisation to its mature form to achieve a purposeful muscular response. Thus muscle action can be activated, facilitated and inhibited through the sensory system.

This is a handy summary of Margaret Rood's  findings.

Margaret Rood's Principles/Assumptions

Utilization of controlled sensory stimulation.
Utilization of developmental sequences
Utilization of activity to demand a purposeful response
Normalization of tone and muscular responses
Sensorimotor control is developmentally based.
Muscular responses of the agonists, antagonists, and synergists are believed to be
reflexively programed according to a purpose or plan
Repetition/practice is necessary for motor learning.

Rood's 4 sequential phases of motor control
Reciprocal inhibition/innervation:
an early mobility pattern

- a simultaneous contraction of the agonist and antagonist that
provides stability in a static pattern.
utilized to hold a position or obj. for a long (ish) duration

Heavy work:
- aka. "mobility superimposed on stability"
in these patterns, proximal muscles contract & move while distal segments are fixed.

- the highest level of control and combines stability & mobility
- these patterns consist of stabilized proximal segment while distal segments move in space.

Rood's motor development sequences: (8 Ontogenic motor patterns)
Supine withdrawal:
total flexion while in supine position (arms cross the chest, legs flex & abduct)
- utilized to gain trunk stability and elicit flexion responses

- arm & leg on the same side flex as the trunk rotates
utilized to elicit lateral trunk responses as well as for person who are dominated by tonic reflexes

Prone extension:
- upper trunk and head extension while in prone position
- shoulder abd, extend, and externally rotate, while hips and knees extend off the
support surface
results in an isometric contraction of the extensors and abductors

Neck co-contraction:
- lift head into extension against gravity while in prone position - utilized to develop head control

Prone on elbows:
- trunk extension
- utilized to inhibit tonic neck reflexes & provide trunk and proximal limb stability

- assumes an "on all fours" position
- to develop limb and trunk co-contraction patterns

- first static followed by active weight shifting

- gait patterns are integrated into functional activities

Rood's 3 major reactions
these occur in response to stimulation of specific receptors
Homeostatic responses:
- via autonomic nervous system (incr. or decr. arousal level)

Protective responses:
via spinal & brain stem circuits (protective withdrawal responses)

Adaptive responses:
-integrate multiple regions of the nervous system

Rood's evaluation procedures
Eval distribution of muscle tone:
-thru clinical observations and palpation techniques

Determine level of motor control based on Rood's developmental sequence

Determine therapeutic activities

Rood's intervention techniques
Utilize controlled sensory input to evoke desired motor responses

Apply facilitation techniques to stimulate or maintain control of a muscle group:
Fast brushing: provide sensory input to the skin over the muscle being facilitated
Stretch/tendon tapping: apply a quick stretch to the desired muscle
- High frequency vibration: 100-300 cycles per second
- Quick icing: apply over a muscle group for stimulation
- Heavy joint compression: apply manually and longitudinally thru a joint in a weight bearing position
- Resistance utilizing gravity

Apply inhibition techniques to quiet/relax/dampen overactive muscle groups:
- Gentle rocking
- Slow stroking over the posterior rami of the spine
- Slow rolling: from supine to side-lying and back in rhythmical pattern
- Tendinous pressure over the muscle insertion
- Maintained stretch to an overactive muscle group
- Neutral warmth: wrapping the person or body part in a blanket - Prolonged icing

Engage in appropriate activities

Click here for a downloadable summary page of Margaret Rood's method.