Sunday, November 18, 2012

Muscle Activation Technique: Session 8

This week I went for my 8th session of Muscle Activation Technique work as I try to put my body back together from years of dysfunction and compensations. It was not a good week for running. I thought I was getting somewhere and starting a string of consecutive days of "very limited running", but I realized I needed to end that. Here is what little I accomplished:
Monday: 2 miles (14 days straight of running. I probably should have taken the day off)
Tuesday: 0 miles I had to be smart and end my streak
Wednesday: 0 miles
Thursday: 4 miles (started to feel great again and overdid it)
Friday: 0 miles
Saturday: 1 mile treadmill
Sunday: 2 miles
Weekly total: 9 miles

The more I was running particularly as I ran over 2 miles, the more my adductors and glutes got tight and hurt. My running form looks better than is has in years, but something is pinching in my adductors or a tendon is frayed or tight, and it locks things up and then the glutes give out and get really sore.

Friday, I finally got frustrated enough and called the surgeon and explained things. I spoke to someone at the office and they said it doesn't sound like the joint is the problem and they had me set up an appointment with the physiatrist I last saw last winter. I am not sure what I am expecting, maybe an MRI to rule out a problem in the hip or tendons. I don't think I need any more trigger point injections or referrals for PT. The doctor's office did say it could be a nerve problem in the back region, but I reminded them that I had an MRI a year ago for that and they said my lower back looked great.

So I went to my M.A.T. session and explained to Greg what was going on and what my thoughts were and I got his thoughts too. I do think the M.A.T. has been extremely helpful. It has strengthened and straightened out my foot. My stride, walking and running, is so much better. I feel great, except when I start running. Are my muscles just tightening up to protect the hip joint from pain that is anticipates? Are they firing incorrectly? I wonder if having strong toes and a stride that is more balanced due to my using my big toe and toe joint is creating more stress in the inside hip area due to greater use due to getting rid of the compensations when my foot would just give in as I ran? I will be seeing the physiatrist in a couple of weeks and so I decided to make this my final M.A.T. session for now, until I can run again, or I can find out what is causing the pains in my hip.

Last week, after 14 days of running, things started to go off again, I stopped running, but did some light stretching and other movements on Monday that felt good at first, but set everything off and I had two uncomfortable days until it all resolved. The good news is that Thursday, I woke up feeling great and balanced again and most important I was still aligned well. I thought maybe all the M.A.T. work had disappeared and I was back to where I was two months ago, but it was still there. So like an idiot, I went for a 4 mile run and things tightened up again.

Two weeks ago, Greg said we had finished with the feet and legs and we would do the right (good hip) this week. After discussing it, he thought it would be better to do the trunk and I agreed. I feel like my good (right hip) is a bit behind my left hip and, strangely, doesn't bend and move as well as the left (labral tear) hip. I also feel that my lower back is very tight and stiff. Greg reminded me that there are a lot of muscles and tendons that attach to the hip joint: from below, with the legs, and above, from the trunk. The muscles from above can come into play in how the hip-pelvis works.

We went about the testing of muscles. I would be in a seated or lying position and move into a position from which Greg would push against my torso or legs to isolate certain muscles one by one. Interestingly, the inhibited muscles were on my right (or good hip side) and I was strong on my left (labral tear) side. Then he would palpate the origins or insertions of the week muscles and we would go back to the testing and it, like usual, would be amazing as I could not exert force from a position which moments earlier I could not. Greg also said that the fascia on the side of my spine was very thick and tight and this is a way that the body tries to protect itself when there is a problem. That makes sense as I recall that after having rolfing done about 6 years ago, that even one year later when I went to a chiropractor that he noticed right away how much looser my back muscles were around the spine after the rolfing. The rolfer I saw last Spring for one visit, also mentioned that my right side was the tight side. He gave me a stretch, but I could never get it to work. Some of the muscles that Greg worked on were my psoas and diaphragm, as well as muscles along my spine and on the sides of my back (like where junior high kids like to poke you to startle you). I forget all the names as there are so many. I do like that M.A.T. is a muscle by muscle approach.

I guess many muscles on the right side of my body are weak or inhibited in the torso area. A light bulb went off in my head. I may be feeling pain or tightness in my lower left back, glutes, and other areas, but maybe that is due to compensating for the right side, or because that left side has to work harder. This makes sense as for years my left side would get stiff or tight after running or racing. For the last 15 of more years when I run the Falmouth Road Race, I immediately go to the massage tent and meet a local Falmouth Chiropractor, who knows me from only the Falmouth race and the Cape Cod Marathon, but he knows to work my very tight QL (quadratus lumburon) on my left side after each race. Usually I feel better running after the race, then when I did running it!

I know I don't run straight or balanced, even above the waist as one side is always rotated and one shoulder is sometimes higher than the other. I had a Gate City Striders teammate, who used to laugh at me because I couldn't keep my racing singlet on my shoulder. It was always falling off on one side. This goes back many years. Here is a photo he took at the 1996 Mt. Washington Road Race as I was nearing the final massive climb to the finish with the singlet falling off. I was impressed by myself when I looked at the results. I knew my time (1:22:23), but I had forgotten that the GCS team that I was on finished third for all the open teams in that race and I was a scoring member (we were only about 1 1/2 minutes out of second place, but I did my part and beat the corresponding 5th place guy by 6 seconds). The other thing I remember about this race, besides not walking one step, was that the previous week was the first week I had ever gone to a chiropractor and had an adjustment. My lower back was much worse back then then it is today in my daily life. I used to have a hard time sitting pain free those days (but I could run!). I remember feeling great after the adjustment, but by the next day I was back to my old self, and it has been a long trip since then trying to get things sorted out.

After this week's  M.A.T. session I felt some new and better rotations in my right lower back and in the way I sit and move. I also feel better in my hips. It is still early to tell how much it helps, but I don't feel as much strain across the front of the hip where the hip flexor presses and the adductor doesn't feel as tight. When walking and running, my hips feel better balanced and the right hip seems to work better. I ran 2 miles today and it felt very good. My glutes did tighten up soon after the run, though. Greg has also been filming videos for me of some of the isometric exercises he wants me to do. This has been very helpful and a big bonus.

I guess that even as I improve my body, there is so much still to unwind. I think I became I master at running through dysfunction and finding my own path to move. It is embarrassing looking at some old photos of my stride, but I made it work. And I damaged my body. The goal now is to see if I can fix it and get back to pain-free running. I know that when I start my runs now, I feel so loose, good, and balanced. I was running today and could "feel" myself being able to run a marathon again, because I wasn't fighting my body like I did for years and years. It is just that I have to make sure I can run without pain. Will the physiatrist find something? Will I just need more time and patience to heal? Will the M.A.T. work on my torso be what I need to get rid of all imbalances all the way up the chain? All that I know is that like the Mount Washington Road Race, it will be a long, slow, uphill climb and that I don't want to walk it, I want to be running it. I feel I still got a lot of good years of running left in my body, so I can't give up now.

M.A.T. has been a really good therapy for me, even if it has yet to fix my hip problem. I "feel" so much better overall. It is too bad they didn't have stuff like this in the 1980s when I first started having imbalance and lower back problems. I may have had a much better and less painful running career. It is too bad there is not a lot of good information out there on M.A.T. One really good testimonial came out this month. Sport Illustrated had an article on the return of Peyton Manning to football with the Denver Broncos and possibly why he chose Denver to play for. The M.A.T. founder, Gary Roskopf, is in Denver and that is whom Peyton sees to treat his troubled muscles in his neck and other places.

"But most important in Peyton's resurgence has been his maniacal body upkeep with two Denver musculature gurus. Last season in Indianapolis, while Manning was fruitlessly racing to prepare his body to play following September neck-fusion surgery, he would pay every week to fly in Greg Roskopf, a Denver-based specialist in cutting-edge Muscle Activation Techniques—finding muscles that have been traumatized or strained and strengthening other muscles to compensate—who had become popular with veterans such as former Broncos safety John Lynch, a friend of Manning's. "There were weeks my arm was dead, and [Roskopf] was instrumental in rebooting my body," says Lynch. (Later, Lynch would be influential in getting Manning to sign with Denver, reminding the QB "what a tremendous luxury" it would be to play where Roskopf was located.)"

Now that I broke my running streak at 14 days, the only streak I have left is that I have done every single Great Gobbler Thanksgiving race held in Nashua (since 2003). You will find me at the starting line ready for a slow jog of a race (to see if I can break 24 minutes) this Thursday (race PR of 18:09 just 5 years ago). Hopefully I haven't lost more than 2 minutes per mile in the past 5 years!


Anonymous said...


I too suffer simular issues with my hips and feet. I was wondering did you rolfing or MAT more helpful? I have decided to ditch PT all together.

Thank you,

Jim Hansen said...

Hi Angie,
I did Rolfing a few years ago when I could still run despite imbalances. I did 11 sessions and I always felt magically great after each session, but it did not last. I think it did positive things, but it did not change my poor movement patterns, so it had little lasting effect as my body reverted back to where it had been prior to the rolfing. Some of this may have been because I was dealing with a labral hip tear without knowing that was the source of some of my problems.

The M.A.T. is very interesting. It is not a massage or anything that makes you feel amazingly great immediately after the session-although you will feel better, however I do note the changes in the way my body moves and functions. I can say it has strengthened my feet and toes and got my big toe down on the ground as well as spreading out my toes for a wider base. My running form looks better than it has in many years. It has helped straighten out my left foot that pointed to the side.I am still working on that and that is another good thing with the M.A.T. You get simple isometric exercises to help work on things after a session.

I don't know the long term effect of M.A.T. but I note that the positives are not leaving my body, something that happened with the Rolfing pretty quickly. However, I have not been able to run like I would like, because there is still a problem in my hip area.

I think the best way to look at it is that the M.A.T. seems to find and strengthen weak or inhibited muscles and to turn them on so that they can do their job again. It supposedly works on the neuromuscular system to get your brain to work the muscles the way they are supposed to work. The Rolfing worked on realigning your body through working on the fascia. Your body has more "space" where it had been tight, but it doesn't seem to help your body move in the proper way if it has "forgot" how to do so. Some rolfers may add a movement therapy component to their work, but I did not have that.

Mime is not an "expert" opinion. If I figure out what is wrong with my hip and then M.A.T. gets me running pain-free I will be as happy as can be. I know that after a summer of rolfing I did some very decent Fall racing, even though things were off, but by that Spring I couldn't even run the Boston Marathon due to being all out of balance. I don't know the long term results with the M.A.T.

Good luck with what you choose. If one of them works for you, check back and let me know.