Muscle Activation Techniques™ (MAT™) is a biomechanically based process designed to evaluate and correct muscular imbalances that contribute to chronic pain, overuse, and injury. Muscle Activation Techniques™ (MAT) looks at muscle tightness as a form of protection in the body. Weak or inhibited muscles can create the need for other muscles to tighten up in order to help stabilize the joints. Muscle Activation Techniques™ (MAT) pin-points the root cause of the pain or injury by addressing muscle weakness rather than muscle tightness. This helps to restore normal body alignment, thereby decreasing pain and reducing the risk of injury.
Range of motion testing can indicate which muscles have decreased force outputs, and precise forces are applied to restore the specific muscle’s contractile efficiency. The MAT™ Certified Specialist is trained and certified to perform several force application techniques that can restore function and strengthen weak muscles. MAT™ is effective for increasing range of motion, restoring muscle contractile efficiency, injury prevention, and post injury rehabilitation. MAT™ has been successfully implemented with professional athletes (PGA, NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB) in clinical rehabilitative and personal training environments.
Range of Motion
The first step of Muscle Activation process is assessing range of motion (ROM). More specifically, we look at asymmetrical range of motion. Asymmetry in ROM would indicate where the body has a fault in movement and where the problem originates. For example, if a client complains of pain in the knee, a MAT specialist would start comparing how both knees bend. The knee that shows less range of motion is the knee that needs to be further assessed. It is important to note that it’s not always the painful joint that shows less range of motion. Furthermore, a limitation in range of motion may appear in other joints. For example, clients whose knees hurt often show limitation at the joints of the foot or trunk and spine while the knee and hip joints are symmetrical.
Once an asymmetrical range of motion is identified, the MAT specialist begins testing every muscle that is associated with that range of motion. For example, a MAT specialist would place a leg in a position where the hamstring muscle is most emphasized and then test the strength of that muscle. If the leg in such position does not hold, the muscle is determined weak and needs to be treated. It is important to point out that every joint in our body is moved by more than one muscle. So although hamstring muscle is the main muscle involved in bending of the knee, it receives help from other neighboring muscles. Consequently, range of motion will not be fully restored until ALL muscles of that range of motion are working properly.
According to Muscle Activation Technique, a “weak” muscle is a muscle that is not effectively recruited by the nervous system. For a muscle to be recruited by the nervous system, and hence for that muscle to be involved in producing force at a given joint, it needs to send messages back to the nervous system. Weak muscles, for a variety of reasons, have ceased sending messages to the nervous system. Therefore, the nervous system does not recognize these muscles as ready to participate in force production.
By treating the muscle, a MAT specialist attempts to send message back to the nervous system. This can be done by applying light pressure at muscle attachments. Muscle attachments are rich in “mechanical receptors”. The mechanical receptors basically inform the nervous system on what is happening mechanically to the muscle. Once a muscle is treated it is tested again. If the treatment was successful at sending information to the nervous system, the muscle is likely to show strong on the test.
Putting it Together
Muscle Activation Technique is process where a range of motion is tested for asymmetry. Once asymmetrical range of motion is identified, then EVERY muscle that can mechanically contribute to that range of motion is individually tested. Any muscles that appear weak are then treated. When all muscles are strong, the range of motion should increase. This is what is meant by a balanced joint. It is at this point that pain and stiffens decrease. Once the nervous system recognizes the joint is stable, all tight and stiff muscles will loosen up, since the protection they were providing is no longer needed.