While I am always assured that I am having a positive affect on the muscular system with each session that I perform, seeing blatant proof of it “externally” is always reassuring. As a MAT practitioner I feel confident that I am doing the work that is needed. The body provides the information of which path to take for treatment through the range of motion evaluation. I never have to guess as to whether I am working on “the right thing” or whether I am violating the body’s own protection mechanism. Testing, treatment, then retesting allows me to verify that I have actually made a change in the muscular system – again no guessing. These pictures of before and after (below), however, provides an actual external view of the changes that can be made in just one session. If you look at the first photo, it is evident that the right shoulder is sitting higher than the left. While this particular client came to me complaining of a right shoulder issue the evaluation revealed instability in the upper thoracic spine. The change in the second photo occurred after testing and treating the muscles of the upper thoracic spine with minimal treatment of the actual shoulder muscles. This immediate change in body position may or may not occur, but the insistence of how everything is connected can be visibly see in these photos. And if you are wondering whether her shoulder was better after treatment, the answer is yes!
I regularly schedule a Muscle Activation appointment regardless of whether I have an issue or not. Being a very active individual, it is my philosophy to maintenance my body instead of waiting for an issue to pop up that may deter my training program.
Last month after ramping up my running mileage, I started to experience some pretty severe swelling and pain in my right knee, a few days before my scheduled appointment. I was literally unable to squat without pain. As my practitioner (Joel Procell) checked the range of motion in my hip and knee we both noticed that there was a distinct sound in my knee. The only way I can describe it, is that it felt like a tendon was rolling over my tibia every time he moved my knee. Joel worked on strengthening the muscles in both my knee and hip several times before they seemed to stabilize. By the end of the session the sound and instability in my knee was almost completely gone. But what was more amazing was the swelling had almost disappeared completely. I am not sure even Joel in his 10 years of experience had ever seen this happen before.
While this is not typical, it is still a testament as to the level of depth we are affecting the muscular system with Muscle Activation. By improving the communication between the brain and the muscle we are facilitating biochemical changes within the cells. It is these biochemical changes that can cause some pretty dramatic changes immediately surprising even a seasoned practitioner. While the exact chemical property changes that are occurring in Muscle Activation are not entirely understood I will do my best to explain what we do know in a future blog.
How can my muscles be weak, I work out all the time? I often get this question from my clients that are die-hard athletes, when we find weak muscle during testing. The example I will use is my client that came in with a hip issue. After doing the range of motion assessment, the issue showed to be partly stemming from weakness in the back muscles. The clients first comment was “ How can my back muscles be weak, I do prone cobras everyday?” For those of you unfamiliar with the term prone cobra, it is a held yoga posture in back extension. While the client was trying to do an exercise to “strengthen” the back, the frequency of the exercise and total load that was being put on the muscles was potentially making them weaker. So after turning the muscles back on, the conversation continued with the suggestion to decrease the frequency of this particular exercise to allow the muscles proper recovery time.
While overuse is definitely one of the causes of muscular inhibition, knowing where that line is can be tricky. Muscles are designed to orchestrate in a particular pattern amongst each other. If one or more muscles gets overused for an extended period of time they may become inhibited and the body will have to come up with a new orchestration which may not be as efficient. It is only when muscle inhibition outweighs optimal muscle contraction that problems begin to arise. The first sign usually tightness in a muscle or joint. Ignoring these first signs is what can lead to joint dysfunction, structural changes in the skeletal system or joint deterioration.
Understanding where the line lies between strengthening and inhibiting muscles can be hard to decipher.
In general if you are not a competitive athlete my recommendation is to vary your type of exercise as much as possible so that you are not constantly reinforcing the same compensation patterns. This will allow some of the muscles a chance to recover and other muscles to gain strength. If you are committed to doing a sport that entails long hours of repetitive motion then using Muscle Activation to keep the body tuned up becomes more important since the chances of overuse and inhibition are higher.
Don’t wait for an issue to magically disappear, address it immediately so that you don’t have to interrupt your exercise regiment. Be proactive!