Mary felt like an “old lady." An active retiree, she found she was no longer able to participate in her chosen daily activities. Embarrassed that she walked with a limp and needed a cane to get around, she began turning down social invitations. She was frustrated with how stiff and tight her body was during any movement.
Most aging adults would gladly take a drink from the fountain of youth if it were ever offered to them. They would give anything to be able to get out of bed easily each morning and move freely throughout the day; to do all of the things they could do in their youth without pain, such as play with their grandchildren, go on vacations, exercise, participate in recreational activities and enjoy sex with their partners—and to look and feel fit, toned and attractive. Unfortunately, being able to move freely to enjoy life’s pleasures can become more difficult as time goes by. Arthritis, scar tissue from previous injuries or surgeries, old traumas and cumulative stress all wreak havoc on the human body. Although pain, tightness, and progressive difficulty performing everyday activities are often considered a “normal” part of the aging process, it’s not normal at all.
For the past 20 years, people suffering with pain, tightness and limited movements have been able to find relief and resolution of acute and chronic issues through a unique assessment and treatment approach called Muscle Activation Techniques, also known as MAT. The sports world is more familiar with MAT due to its successes in aiding athletes. In a 2016 Sports Illustrated article, U.S. Women’s National Team and Seattle Reign goalkeeper Hope Solo and her strength-and-conditioning coach discussed how they’re using MAT to improve Solo’s balance in order to fine-tune her athletic performance. In 2015, numerous professional athletes were interviewed by The Washington Times about how effective this treatment approach has been in helping them recover faster and “resolve injuries that cannot be healed through conventional rehabilitation.” As with athletes, MAT provides hope and healing to aging adults who have been told that surgery wasn’t an option, that nothing could be done to help them, and that they have to learn to live with the pain.
Mary’s sister referred her to a local MAT specialist to help resolve her chronic lower back and foot pain. Over the years, Mary had already been through a few rounds of traditional physical therapy, and had also tried chiropractic, acupuncture and other alternative treatments, but she was still left wanting more relief.
Through the holistic Muscle Activation Techniques approach, a key missing piece of the healing puzzle is discovered and resolved. Instead of releasing tightness, or “knots”, in muscles to alleviate uncomfortable sensations, MAT specifically targets the root of the problem: muscle weakness. Muscle weakness, which is caused by stress, trauma, or overuse, is the inability of a muscle to contract efficiently to support the body. Instead, the body uses “compensations” to keep moving forward despite weakness, but these movement compensations are not as efficient, and eventually lead to unstable posture and alignment, bone degeneration, dysfunctional movement patterns and energy drains on the body—all symptoms that most people equate with the normal aging process. By activating weak muscles, MAT resolves the need for movement compensations and restores muscle activity required for healthy movement, allowing full healing to occur.
Mary’s MAT specialist discovered that Mary’s hip mobility was locked up. By using hands-on techniques and gentle exercises to activate a few muscles associated with the limited movement, Mary’s hip range-of-motion improved significantly. After her treatment, she stood up and noticed a huge reduction in both her back and foot pain. By activating her hip muscles, Mary’s pelvis was in a more balanced alignment, which took pressure off her lower back. By being able to use her hip muscles more efficiently, the weight-bearing forces were distributed evenly throughout her legs, taking pressure off of her sore foot. Within a few weeks, Mary no longer walked with a cane and she had resumed her favorite activities again.
MAT may not be able to “turn back the clock”, but by simply improving the way the muscles work to support the body, aging adults can become stronger, feel more flexible and fluid with their everyday movements, and return to the activities they enjoy. Life should be lived to the fullest, and MAT can help this happen naturally.
Physical Therapist Emily Yenor is Mary’s MAT specialist, and the owner of 1212 Bodyworks in Brookfield, WI. She offers a complimentary consultation to those interested in discovering how to help their body move and feel its best. To learn more, call 414-405-3956, email 1212BodyWorks@gmail.com, or visit 1212BodyWorks.com. To read referenced articles, visit Tinyurl.com/y4jt9qjf and Tinyurl.com/y2xxy5mr.
(Article published in Natural Awakenings magazine September 2019. Click here for full article and magazine edition)