Q. What makes MAT® unique?
A. Most therapies focus on treating the muscles that are tight, tense and/or in pain. MAT acknowledges the tension, but realizes that tension is the body’s form of protection. When there is a problem with our muscles or joints, the body will tighten up to temporarily stabilize the joint (nature’s splint). MAT addresses the original cause of tension by finding and correcting the problem muscles. Once the root problem is resolved, the tension is no longer necessary. If tight muscles are stretched, massaged or “released” without addressing the root cause, then the body’s protective mechanism and temporary stability is removed leaving the system prone to further injury or shifting problems elsewhere. When we increase range of motion through other therapies, we must make sure that we give the body its original preferred form of stability – activated muscles.
Q. As an athlete, how can MAT help if I don’t have any pain or symptoms?
A. Muscle imbalance in the long term can cause pain and injuries; however, in the short term, those same imbalances can go undetected causing decreased performance.
Traditionally, there has not been a very effective way to measure how much or how hard to train for sports. By using MAT, we now can test specific muscles before and after training, to gather information about the intensity, frequency, and duration of workouts. This can guide us into making decisions of how hard to push in the future, as well as helping the body recover faster before the next workout.
Q. What effect can MAT have on arthritis and the aging process?
A. MAT® can slow down or even reverse the aging process. If it is recognized that muscles are designed to stabilize and support the joints naturally; it must be understood that arthritic conditions and joint instability can be helped or prevented when muscles are prepared to function properly. All that is needed is to create proper connections between the brain and the muscles. Muscle Activation Techniques does this. It provides the ability for the body to function the way that it was designed to function. Just like with a dead battery, the muscles must be jumpstarted and the cables must be tightened before the muscle will function properly. In simplistic terms, through MAT®, muscles that have improper neurological connections are identified, then jumpstarted; creating the ability for the muscles to stabilize the joints and reduce joint stresses that lead to arthritic conditions. That is when the body becomes efficient and the related aches and pains are deterred.
A. In the very early stages of muscle inhibition, there are usually no symptoms. However, once the muscle weakness increases in number or intensity, the symptoms noticeable might include the following:
Anything from something not feeling quite right, sluggish performance, hesitation moving a certain way, muscle tension or tightness, joint pain to osteoarthritis.
Q. What does activating a muscle mean?
A. Firstly, understand that the initiation of a muscle contraction occurs similar to that of a car battery. Both, a car battery and our bodies rely on connections that transfer electrical energy to produce a reaction. When a message is sent from the brain, the input is transferred through the nerves to the muscles creating muscle contraction. Each muscle is independently innervated (wired); therefore it can be seen as having many batteries, each connected by its own independent cables. When the body is functioning properly, with all batteries connected, each muscle will contract on demand and the body will function very efficiently.
Many times, due to factors such as stress, trauma or overuse, the neurological connections between the brain and muscles may become altered, creating a reaction in the body similar to that of loose car battery cables. When the brain sends a message for a muscle to contract, the muscle does not respond immediately, creating increased demand on other muscles to perform the desired movement. The result becomes what we know as compensation. Over time, these compensation patterns create altered alignment in the joint, leading to joint instability, abnormal wear on the joint surfaces, pain and poor muscle performance.
Muscle activation refers to the process of ‘jumpstarting’ the muscles that are not working properly – basically switch them back on. This is done by either a manual treatment of the weak muscle or isometric exercises.
Q. What to expect during a treatment?
A. MAT treatments are performed on a massage table where joint range of motion evaluations are followed by specific muscle tests. Once the problem area(s) are found, weak muscles are either “jumpstarted” with manual pressure at the muscle’s attachment points or an isometric exercise. Each muscle that is treated should immediately start to work more efficiently. As more muscles work properly, reducing compensation, the better function the overall body will have. Results can be seen in one session, while others can see better body mechanics progressively each session. Results vary depending on the degree/amount of compensation and duration of physical stress.
Q. What about strength training and stretching, or even yoga. can’t these correct inhibited muscles?
A. The answer is that it depends. If you have muscles that have been inhibited due to prolonged stress or sudden trauma, then moving into a position of vulnerability (meaning a position that contracts the inhibited muscle) will usually result in other muscles taking over the job of the inhibited muscles. This leads to the weak staying weak and the strong getting stronger. People tend to mask their weakness by developing strength in compensatory muscles. Over time, this can be dangerous as these compensatory muscles are being asked to do jobs that they are not ideally designed for. If the stress that created the weakness in the prime movers to begin with continued (habitual posture or repetitive motion – i.e. – ergonomically unsound work station, golf swing, etc.), then it is likely that the synergistic muscles will become inhibited over time. This can lead to joint deterioration and chronic problems like tendonitis and arthritis. The best course of action is to properly assess which specific muscles are inhibited and then to take a corrective course of action. MAT® is a checks and balances system that will allow you to determine which postures, exercises, and activities involve positions of vulnerability. It will then give you the tools to correct muscle inhibition so that you can move back into these postures, exercises and activities more safely—from a position of strength.