Q: What is MAT?
Muscle Activation Techniques is body-work that is designed:
to seek out and correct muscle imbalances which cause joint instabilities, by educating engaging all supporting muscles around a joint motion = creates stability, allowing safe, and efficient movement.
view tightness as a symptom and secondary to muscular weaknesses and as a sign that there is instability in the joint movement.
as a process of checks and balances which allow the specialist and the client to see how the treatments progress to results.
Q: How does one “activate the muscles”?
By first determining a muscle is weak through a muscle test, a MAT Specialist then palpates at the attachment sites of that muscle. The palpation stimulates a re-associate or link of communication between the brain and the muscle to reestablish the functional role(s) of that muscle.
Q: How does activation of the muscle help muscle movement?
Tightness causes limited range of motion (ROM) with joint movement. When the weaker muscles are engaged and activated, clear communication between the brain and the muscles allows for the following to occur: stability in a joint, tight muscles relax because all muscles are doing what they should be, an increase in ROM, joint motion is more balanced, limit of wear and tear on joint surfaces, passive structures such as ligaments are at less risk of strain, less injuries and setbacks occur.
Q: What do I wear to an appointment for MAT?
For easier assessment and motion during the treatment, wear comfortable clothing, similar to what you would wear during a workout session.
Q: How is MAT different than Active Release Techniques (A.R.T.) that my Chiropractor does?
A.R.T. treatments focus on addressing the belly of the muscle that is tight, or painful. The chiropractor will apply pressure to the belly of the tight muscle while you move through the range of motion that muscle offers, which relaxes the tight muscles.
The MAT process works with the weak muscle, and at the attachment sites where the communication between the Central Nervous System (CNS) and the muscular system is the greatest. This introduces new input, which re-educates the weaker muscles with the movement role(s), eliminates movement compensations, instills a safe range of motion, and tight muscles naturally relax.
Q: Should I do MAT instead of chiropractics or massage?
Every modality has a place in the ongoing process of taking care of and healing our bodies. Additionally, every body responds differently to all modalities. MAT is a great adjunct to any Chiropractic work, because a MAT Specialist can assist in re-educating the muscular system, allowing the muscles around the adjusted joint(s) to be more responsive and stable in the new alignment. This increases the longevity of the adjustments and increases the joints threshold for stress. You should find out what your body responds best to, which may be MAT and massage, or chiropractics and acupuncture, or any combination of treatments.
Q: Does it hurt?
A palpation at the attachment site of a weak muscle can be tender. At times of dysfunction our pain receptors, or Nociceptors, are engaged easier. These receptors lets us know when something is not right by causing pain sensations, usually felt with joint movements.
An example of heighten Nociceptor activity: during an activity, for instance, if your knees begin to hurt this pain might cause you to slow down or stop for a while and to relax, and allow the joints ache to subside.
As the weak muscles are addressed, and stability and mobility are gained, the pain sensation of the palpations and of movement subsides.
Q: How long does it last or how many sessions does it take?
There is no clear answer that can honestly be given for these questions. It depends on many factors: how long you have been experiencing the imbalances in your body, chronic v. acute, the integrity of your nervous system, and many more.
I like to explain our body as an onion, in that they may be many layers to what in our body and we only see the surface, yet we deal with every layer giving shape to what we see. Only when you take care of the most asymmetrical range of motion, can the other layers be addressed.
In the case of an individual which has just sustained an injury, it is relatively easier to intervene in the healing process. However, if it is an injury of “chronic” nature the process of treatments to address all that is affected, and have no doubt been compensating, can make the process take longer.
It comes down to being efficient. If you have an issue and are treated once, you may feel “fixed”, but there were other instabilities that caused the issue that you may not realize. Unless these unforeseen issues are corrected you are vulnerable to re-injuries and setbacks.
Q: How is MAT different than massage?
Most Massage tends to address focus on alleviating the symptom of muscle tightness and deals primarily with the belly of the muscle. Massage also tends to be a more broad treatment. There are different forms of massage such as: Myofascial Release, Shiatsu, deep tissue, Swedish, and even energy work such as Reiki, all perhaps beneficial in treating muscular aliments.
MAT treatments are based on seeking out the movement difficulties, and tend to be very specific to one area . For instance, if a client were to complain of hip pain, I would not necessarily go to the hip, I would check range of motion (ROM) in the trunk as well as the hip and the quality of motion at the knee and foot to determine the most asymmetrical ROM.
The treatment then may be specifically on all the muscles that contribute to trunk rotation to the left or on a limited motion of the foot, both of which may contribute to hip issues. Also, MAT addresses the attachment sites on the bones and fascia.
As stated before, every body responds differently; find what works best for you.
Greg Roskoph, M.A. is the founder and developer of MAT. Greg holds a master’s degree in exercise science. He has worked as a biomechanics consultant for several professional sports teams, including the Denver Broncos, Utah Jazz, and the Denver Nuggets.