Muscle Tightness: What Exactly is Going on Here?Muscle Tightness. This is a concept with which we are all probably familiar. However, at Muscle Activation Techniques®, we look at it differently than many other modalities. Muscle tightness within the MAT® thought process is a form of protection, not a form of inhibition. We see tightness as a symptom; not a cause. To help clarify, let’s use an analogy…
Consider what happens when you walk out onto a sheet of ice. Typically your whole body tenses up as soon as your foot hits the slick surface. Your body is sensing the instability of the ice and subsequently tightens to protect you from falling. The same thing happens in our muscular system. If muscles are not firing appropriately, your body recognizes this as instability and tightens as a protective mechanism. For example, if your bicep muscles are overused from lifting heavy at the gym, this decreases their contractile ability, thus inhibiting the ability for them to engage in motions such as bending your elbow. When this happens, the muscles on the other side of the axis, (in this case, the triceps) will tighten to restrict you from going into elbow flexion.
Many times people consider the “tight” triceps as the issue and try to loosen the muscular tightness through modalities such as stretching or foam rolling. However, at MAT®, we approach tightness with the understanding that this is just your body’s way of keeping you in safer range of motion. If we can get the biceps firing appropriately again and regain the muscle contractile efficiency, the triceps won’t need to be tight to protect. With MAT we use a series of specific muscular assessments and muscular palpation therapy to address the muscles that are firing inappropriately. Going back to our earlier analogy, we liken an MAT treatment to “melting the ice.” With the ice melted, there is no need for your body to tighten as a form of protection and your muscles can again be contracting at an optimal level.
At MAT we evaluate the muscular system to ensure all the muscles are firing and “turned on” so that the body has no need for tightness and protection. We want to have mobility AND stability that is created by all the muscles in the system working correctly!
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