A good example of this came last week when one of my clients arrived complaining of pain in his right hip whenever he took a step forward. He even showed me how he could walk backwards with no pain at all…but when he walked forward he experienced a sharp stabbing sensation in the side of his glute.
Before my MAT training, I might have encouraged him to rest, ice, stretch. I might have had him roll it. I likely would have avoided working that part of his body during out session together, so concerned would I have been about making it worse.
But now my mind works differently.
MAT encourages me to think about the story a body is telling me. It also encourages me to consider the tightness and pain that my clients experience as secondary to the neuromuscular weakness that it might be indicating.
In other words, it could very well be that the pain he was experiencing in his right glute was, in fact, not the result of a malfunction in his right glute; but rather his right glute might be protecting him from fully flexing his hip (stepping forward) because his brain knew that his hip flexor did not have the neuromuscular connection to contract on demand.
Perhaps his brain knew that one or more of his hip flexors was asleep on the job. And if one or more of his hip flexors is not ready to contract (thus protecting the hip joint) then more serious problems could occur.
To explore this hypothesis, I put him on the table and tested the muscles responsible for flexing the hip and, sure enough, two of them were unable to contract on demand. As the MAT saying goes, the battery cables were weak. I am still new enough to this process that I almost got giddy when I was able to identify the “weak” muscles (meaning: limited ability to communicate with the central nervous system), treat them, and see them come back strong.
Will this work for everyone who walks through the door? Obviously not. But having a tool like Muscle Activation Technique in my toolbox when training clients means that pain or tightness or injury doesn’t require that I work around their limitations, but rather I can work with their body as it presents itself.