Just the other day I had a client come into Muscle Activation Schaumburg and say, “I knew I was doing Muscle Activation Techniques® (MAT®) to help my muscles work better, but I didn’t realize that my joints would be feeling so much better, too.” This is not an uncommon response from many of our clients as the function of your muscles and the function of your joints are tightly intertwined with one another.
Too often, the thought of a joint symptom being strictly a joint issue predominates in our society. If there is an achiness in our knee, we believe it to be a knee issue. Or if our shoulder is feeling problematic, we stop our investigation into what could be causing the symptom with the shoulder itself.
Without understanding the potential variables that could be influencing what is being experienced symptomatically, we are liable to overlook some of the bigger contributors. In my experience, one of the bigger contributors that is often overlooked is the function of the muscular system. There are many ways in which your muscles can help your joints feel better, but let’s discuss three of the more prominent ones.
1) Improved Joint Mobility
Let me ask you a question – when your joints are feeling good, do you notice when they are moving? Do you feel your bones moving on one another, or are you unaware of your bony surfaces coming into contact?
If you don’t feel your bones in contact with one another, this is likely a good thing. Many of your bones are supposed to be lined with a tissue called hyaline cartilage. Hyaline cartilage serves various purposes, but one of which is to be a low-friction surface for your bones to move on. Fortunately, hyaline cartilage is not innervated, so if it is fully intact and all of your muscles are working well, you shouldn’t feel the bone on bone discomfort when you move that typically accompanies conditions like arthritis.
Hyaline cartilage needs a couple mechanical influences to stay healthy, one of which is joint motion. This means if you are moving your joints appropriately, you can help your hyaline cartilage stay healthy. One of the great things about your muscles is they help to move your joints. When your muscles are functioning better, your joints have a great opportunity to move better, and therefore have a greater opportunity to be healthier.
MAT® is designed to help improve the function of your muscles, and often times we see dramatic improvements in joint motion because of that. You can see examples of this kind of improved motion here and here. MAT® does not utilize any kind of stretching or releasing techniques, but rather focuses on improving the strength of specific muscles that are not working well. Your muscles are designed to move your bones, and when your muscles are working better, your bones can move better.
2) Improved Joint Stability
On the other extreme of the motion continuum is the ability to prevent motion, or create stability, which is another role of the muscular system. Not only can your muscles help your joints move, they can also help them not move when appropriate. If you have ever walked up the stairs and felt like your knee was about to buckle, or if you have ever tried to pick up something heavy off the ground, you have likely experienced the importance of joint stability.
While your joints need to be able to move in order to stay healthy, they also need to have limits set to how much they will move at any given moment in order to stay protected. Your muscles can create these limits in a moment’s notice to make sure you don’t hurt yourself. This is what happens when you are walking down the sidewalk while looking at your phone, unexpectedly step off the curb, twist your ankle, but don’t hurt yourself. Your muscles can contract exactly when they need to in order to keep your joints safe and protected.
The role of MAT® is to figure out where your muscles have temporarily lost the ability to create this joint stability. By figuring out where your muscles cannot contract exactly when you need them to and then improving their ability to do so, your joints can become more stable and less likely to get injured when they move into more extreme positions.
3) Improved Posture
Not only can your muscles help improve how your joints move and increase the stability of your joints, they can also influence where your bones are positioned. Often times, you may call where your bones are positioned your posture. Your posture is in part dictated by the shape of your bones and in part dictated by the position your muscles are holding your bones in. While the shape of your bones is unlikely to be changed, the ability for your muscles to hold your bones in different positions is often easily influenced.
Have you ever seen a tall tree with wire or ropes attached to it trying to hold it up straight? The tree is like your bones and the wires are like your muscles. You can try to change the tree itself to help it stay upright, or you can change the way the wires are pulling on it. With your posture, changing your bone structure is highly unlikely and a very slow process if it ever happens. But, changing how your muscles pull on your bones can happen very quickly.
At Muscle Activation Schaumburg, we hear all the time from our clients about how their posture has changed since starting MAT®. They feel like they are able to stand up straighter. They can do work at their desk for longer periods of time without it bothering their back and neck. And many times, they get up off the MAT® table and say how they feel taller! All of these are indications that their posture is changing because their muscles are pulling on their bones differently.
With Muscle Activation Techniques®, the focus is on improving the function of your muscles. Often times, when your muscles aren’t functioning well, your joints may start to not feel well. By improving the function of your muscles, you may notice changes in what you are feeling in your joints. This may, in part, be contributed to the improved mobility, stability, and postural changes that often come as a result of MAT® sessions.
If you are interested in seeing if MAT® may be a good fit for you, you can sign up for a free phone consultation with us here. If you are not in the Chicagoland area, you can find a certified practitioner who is local to you here. You can also download our free 20-page ebook to learn more about Muscle Activation Techniques® here.