In the first blog of this series, I emphasized the direct efficacy of Myoskeletal Alignment Techniques (MAT) and it's inclusiveness. In this installment, I address treating our nervous system with precision.
The subject of any sentence that involves therapy is the person that is receiving it, not the intervention applied. Western medicine tends to be very reductionist and pain "site" orientated. This can be described as a "trauma based" model as opposed to an "overuse" one. If you go to the doctor with a bum knee, chances are, they will look, scope, scrape, rehab, and maybe cut open your knee. This limited perspective assumes that managing the defective part will correct the entire system. However, trauma and overuse injuries have different origins and our biological organism operates by running patterns and sequences, as opposed to moving individual parts. In an overuse injury, movement dysfunction precedes musculoskeletal degeneration. This parts vs patterns approach is similar to modern computers. Fixing the hard drive will do nothing if it is a software problem. Neurological input must be considered and enhanced when treating overuse injuries. Put simply, jammed joints cause weakness and loss of range of motion "downstream" in the body.
An overly reductionist thought process ignores the regional interdependence of all the different parts and pieces of the body. In order to survive, if the body is injured, the brain will choose the path of least resistance and run a different, or suboptimal pattern, often leading to overuse injury. By working extensively with joint neurology, MAT is able to enduce systemic change by altering unwanted afferent neural feedback loops. In other words, as I tell my clients, the nervous system is like your electrical system. The fuse boxes are located in the joints and if they are jammed, it short circuits the electricity to the muscles. Since the language of movement is written in feel, one of our main goals as practitioners is to increase our client's sensitivity and awareness. MAT presents one of the most direct ways to do this that I have experienced.
Earlier in my life, I had the honor to experience and train under some of the best running coaches around and one of the lessons imparted to me was "Perfect practice makes perfect." It took me a long time to understand how profound this statement was, as a lot of athletes I knew ran huge numbers of miles in an attempt to fulfill the "more is better" training philosophy. The majority became injured from overuse or diminished their potential as running had more of an impact on them then they had on running. Over time, books like Malcolm Gladwell's "The Talent Code" and "Blink", as well as the work of Erik Dalton, helped me understand the "quality over quantity" approach to life. It is our diligent, mindful practice that leads to our enlightenment, no matter what we go after. It is also easy to squander our talents mindlessly slogging away at drudgery.
In "Blink", Gladwell defines a concept called Thin Slicing which is a process of constant refinement. What we normally call genius, he says is advanced pattern recognition due to thin slicing. Applying this concept to bodywork, the more we precisely practice the same techniques on different people, the higher our problem solving will become. Our mastery of the material evolves our experience into expertise. Myoskeletal Alignment Techniques reward practice and precision. The longer you perform MAT, the more universal patterns of joint mobility and function start to emerge. Your proprioception improves as data points are cataloged by the brain with each homo sapien you work with. The quest to feel the subtle end ranges of joint capsules is a long, but very, rewarding process. Once again, to emphasize Gladwell's point, diligently practicing the same techniques on different bodies will evolve our Thin Slicing skills to discern the subtle differences and needs of our clients. Perfection requires perfect practice.
In life I was very fortunate to follow in the footsteps of one of my true hero's, Steve Prefontaine, by running for the University of Oregon. His words never cease to inspire me. "To do less than your best is to sacrifice the gift."
For information on the Myoskeletal Alignment Techniques catalog or upcoming classes, check out www.erikdalton/workshops.
Libert Myoskeletal Massage combines massage therapy and restorative exercise to treat and prevent injuries, as well as improve your physical performance.