Friday, October 8, 2010

Muscle Activation Therapy

Good Morning

Let me start by saying I am very very leary of snake oil salesman. I was never a huge fan of chiropractors, muscle stimulation, massages etc... At the risk of sounding like a total psychopath I don't like people touching me. Now, not the extent of Howie Mandell or anything, I just think the whole massage thing is weird and when I have tried it, it has never been the relaxing "ZEN" type experience that they are tyring to sell you. I tell you this only to frame my post.

As I have posted this week, I had a very very long run on Tuesday night and through my own stupidity pushed harder than I probably should have. I have a 2 hour hill ride tonight, a long swim tomorrow and a 100 mile ride on Sunday so this is probably not the week to hurt myself. When my back was bothering me a few weeks back I was so desperate to get over it, I went for a massage but fortunatley, the random person that they gave me was an expert in something called Muscle Activation Therapy or MAT for short. Unlike a typical deep tissue message that focuses on shutting the muscles off through pressure and often times pain, the theory (as I understand it) of MAT is to actually figure out what muscles are not receiving signals from the brain correctly and through very acute pinpoint message "reactivate" those connectsions. The best way that I can explain it is like this:

- Between you knee and your hip you have over 13 different muscles controlling movement. If you would have asked me a week ago I would have said, you have your hamstring and your quads and although these are the largest "groups) that typically do most of the work there are many more subtle muscles that serve a very specific purpose. Through many different vehicles (exercise, fatigue, lack of exercise, stiffness, limitations in motion, injury etc....) Signals from your brain to muscle groups can in effect be shut off thus shifting the work that is typically done by these muscles to other muscles. In shorter distanct efforts you may see this in a break down of technique, or loss of speed etc... however, in endurance efforts and in me specifically it manifests itself as very acute soreness, cramping, overuse, loss of range of motion etc... For me, I actually feel my left leg get tight and if bad enough I actually have a slight limp or change in my running gate. Multiply this times the number of steps or pedals or swim strokes and it becomes a compounding problem. I sent in very skeptical!!!!! But I was desperate. If someone would have told me that I had to stand on one leg and cluck like a duck I would have tried it with a "zen" type massage being a close second.

After yesterday, I am a convert. Following my back treatment, I felt better almost immediately. It was apparant after one session my range of motion got significantly better in the areas that were treated. Following my long run, I knew my week was not going to get any easier and I had already put myself in a compromised position so I went in for a second appointment prior to another run.

Let me tell you, for the first time in a very very long time I was able to run without a change in gate on my left side. Before I left the therapist's office I could tell immediately my range of motion in my left leg improved. If you have read my posts I have always complained of left knee problems. Her theory (and probably on going project) is that my knee is unstable because my brain is not telling all of my muslces to "activate". Over a period of time, the inactive muscles get weak causing even more instability.

The therapy session itself is very straight forward. The therapist puts you in a position and asks you to "resist" the force that she applies so she can see if the muscles are active. If they are active, the force is "smooth" (my words not hers). If the muscles are inactive the response feels "jerky" (again me not her) because other muscles have to compensate for the inactive one and are not as efficient at movement in that specific position and must compensate. Once she determines what muscle is inactive, through message, she reactivates the muscles to brain connection and retests. THE STRANGEIST THING ABOUT THIS PROCESS IS YOU CAN IMMEDIATELY TELL THE DIFFERENCE BEFORE AND AFTER. The activation is called palpation. It is really stange feeling a "jerky" response and then immediately feel a "smooth" response when doing the exact same motion that was done a few minutes before.

My run last night:

I didn't know what to expect. I had a 6 mile tempo run and I was still sore eventhough I had greater range of motion. I could tell immediately that I didn't have my normal slight limp or change in gate on my left side. I had no discomfort at all in my left knee and I just felt like I was using more of my left leg than before with no signs of favoring it.


It may be all in my head but as skeptical as I was going in I highly doubt it. Anyway, my theapists name was Rachel Durnell at The Root of Motion. Her phone number is 314-623-7365 and web site is and the link is below. If you are having exercise related issues, she is worth talking to.

More to come...


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