Now that it is getting nice outside, a lot of people are starting to go on hikes again! Hiking is a great way to get outside and get
exercise while enjoying some much needed vitamin D after the winter season. You may notice that you're enjoying yourself on the way up but then you remember that the hike back down is going to be a doozy...here it comes, the knee pain. With every step
down the hill, the pain is there and it seems like you will never make it to the bottom and the sweet relief of flat ground. What causes that pain? How come you don’t have it on the way up? What can you do to make it go away so you can continue to enjoy your outdoor activities?
First let's give you some background on what I do and how I think through the next steps based on the MAT® thought process. I, as an MAT® Specialist, am concerned with what muscles are not firing correctly. Think about it: if the brain cannot stimulate muscles to contract appropriately, then other muscles will have to compensate. Over time, these compensating muscles get overworked and can shut down. Eventually, your body will put up pain signals to tell you that something is wrong...
Unfortunately the pain doesn’t tell you exactly what the problem is, it just tells you that there is an issue there. MAT® uses a series of range of motion exams to determine what motions your body is struggling to achieve. These limited motions tend to be the source of pain and discomfort. After determining where the body isn’t able to move, MAT® can test all the muscles that move into that position.
On the hiking downhill example, when you have knee pain going down a hill, it can be caused by different things. The first thing that comes to mind is the constant load on your quads could be pulling on your patellar tendon creating an uncomfortable sensation. Or, the inability to plantarflex your foot at an angle down a hill could cause the muscles around your shin to tighten up as a mode of protection. Finally, stabilizing your body in a slight hip flexed position over time could create strain through your knee. Any one of these issues (or more!) could be creating the pain that you are feeling!
So those muscle tests, mentioned above, are checking the connectivity between the brain and the muscle. If it isn’t firing, an MAT® practitioner will use a DFAMAT (digital force application of muscle attachment tissue) or a PIC (positional iso-angular contraction) to stimulate that connection again. After addressing all the muscles associated with a range of motion, ideally, the range will open up and the body will feel more secure during activity. The skill-set that an MAT® Specialist has to identify where the weaknesses are, address them, and determine the best course of action will get you back out on the mountain in time for a full summer of activity!