Myoskeletal Alignment Technique (MAT) is a type of bodywork which blends the principles of osteopathy and structural integration to relieve chronic pain, and to reduce the potential for the emergence of pain which could become chronic over time. Myoskeletal Alignment Technique was developed and coined by Erik Dalton, PhD, in the early 80s after seeing a need for a more integrative perspective on pain science as it applies to the human body. This technique is often integrated into regular massage and bodywork sessions, and it can also be used alone to treat systemic problems. The focus of this technique is on back and neck pain in particular, since this type of pain is extremely common in the industrialized world.The basic idea behind myoskeletal alignment technique is that back and neck pain are caused by fundamental problems with the musculoskeletal system. Tight, stressed muscles contribute to pain by limiting freedom of movement, while weak muscles provide inadequate support for the body. This in turn leads to posture problems, stiffness, and other symptoms which create an endless cycle of pain. By addressing the fundamental issues in the muscles and fascia, practitioners hope to eliminate the associated symptoms.
Structural integration and osteopathy both rely heavily on the manipulation of the muscles, fascia, and skeletal system with the goal of promoting general musculoskeletal health. The idea behind structural integration is that if someone's body can be aligned properly, his or her health problems can be dramatically reduced, because the body will work as a whole. Osteopathic practitioners share this idea, arguing that many chronic health conditions are related to musculoskeletal problems.
Despite the variety of pain-management approaches available in today’s ever-expanding bodywork field, the therapeutic goal should remain the same: restoration of maximal pain-free movement within postural balance."The neuromusculoskeletal system must be assessed and treated as a whole, with muscle dysfunction considered in relation to the functional status of the whole motor system, including articular and nerve structures. Any change in the statics or dynamics of the distal trunk and lower extremities will, in some way, be mirrored in the function of the upper complex, and vice-versa." Vladimir Janda, M.D. Since Myoskeletal therapy is based on the scientific fact that our bodies are self-regulating, self-healing organisms, the basic idea of myoskeletal alignment technique is that back and neck pain are caused by fundamental problems of the musculoskeletal system. All vital functions are controlled and carried out by the central nervous system: brain, spinal cord, and all the nerves of the body. The skull protects the delicate tissues of the brain while the moving bones of the spine protect the vulnerable communication pathways of the spinal cord and nerve roots. Any nervous system disorder can cause malfunction in all the body’s muscoskeletal and visceral tissues. Many manual therapy modalities are successfully used to restore our natural ability to be healthy. All our body, cells, myofascia, and organs are able to resist disease and ill health if it is under the control of a properly functioning nervous system.
The Myoskeletal approach is used to locate and remove any neural interference or obstruction that can keep us from our natural state of well-being. Since the twenty-four moving bones of the spinal column is a common source of nervous system dysfunction, any loss of normal motion or position of these bones can deteriorate optimal functioning of the central nervous system by disrupting transmission of the controlling nerve impulses. The delicate dural tissues surrounding the spinal cord and nerve roots can be damaged by abnormal spinal functions caused from gravitational stress, physical trauma, emotional tension, or chemical toxins. When functioning normally, the vertebrae of the spine fit together on moving joints and provide strength to spinal structures as they maintain the vertebrae in proper working alignment with one another. The cervical spine is richly innervated with nerve fibers that can radiate pain when joints are physically strained or injured. It is the most mobile of all spinal segments, but the spinal joints start losing their stability and support as soon as the stiffening and shortening process begins. When the affected vertebrae become compressed, motion-restricted and misaligned, the intervertebral discs, facet joints, and supporting ligamentous tissue have more chance to get strain and injury. In order to create elastic deformation to help lengthen and strengthen muscles, ligaments, fascia and joint capsules that control, support and restrain spinal motion, the Myoskeletal method utilizes the fascia’s sensory receptor system. In addition to creating myofascial alignment and balance to neck/back structures, Myoskeletal therapy’s goal is also to normalize articular afferent input to the central nervous system to recover muscle tone, joint play, and sympathetic activity.
The Myoskeletal system is guided by a complex neurological network that is amazing when it functions effectively and efficiently. To be truly effective in helping this system to function properly, we must first develop a plan or strategy to guide us in our therapeutic goals.The main target of the Myoskeletal therapy is the deepest connective tissue layers- namely the skeletal system. Since anatomically it is required to work through the myofascia to reach the skeletal system, focusing our intention on these deeper levels guarantees us the whole body alignment. This “bony intent” gives us a powerful new tool for our practice by creating profound and lasting changes in our clients’ bodies.
Myofascial and skeletal alignment must begin with a well-developed strategy. And the development of this strategy depends first on the therapist’s ability to recognize common strain patterns in the human body. The Myoskeletal Method mainly focuses on the most prevalent strain patterns that clients bring in our clinics every day. By observing and understanding the mechanism of these dysfunctional patterns, the therapist can quickly locate and treat the muscle imbalances responsible for creating asymmetry. If the client does not have either of these patterns, the muscle testing system still differentiates and corrects the existing dysfunctional pattern successfully. The goal is always to recognize the strain patterns that create most common neck/back dysfunctions and to correct the strain patterns before they become pain patterns.