As I write this, it’s been 3 full weeks since I began my MRT program at the local chiropractors office. MRT stands for Myofascial Release Therapy. It is also commonly known as ART or the Active Release Technique. It has done wonders for my hip, glute and hamstring flexibility and I am forever sold on the therapy. As for the details…
I first noticed problems about one year ago when I began working a desk job. You know the setting, lots of sitting on your rump, not enough moving around and very poor posture. This in itself is a recipe for anatomical disaster. When strength training, I noticed my lower back rounding during certain lifts. The deadlift soon became impossible to do without rounding my lower back when pulling from the floor. I once hurt my lower back bad enough that I dropped deadlifts completely from my programming for a while. The next issue I noticed was my butt tucking under at the bottom of my squats. My lower back kept getting worse and I soon had to revert to leg press only to relieve the lower back pain. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I stretched and trained regularly. I had never had these issues before. It didn’t make much sense.
Research and Discovery
I began doing lots and lots of forum searches for others with the same problems as I. The common issue I found was that many others with desk jobs experienced the same lower back problems that I was experiencing. As I was looking for a solution I found that many were making an extra effort to stretch their hamstrings and hip flexors. This made sense the more I studied. If your hams are tight, when you squat down your lower back has to round to allow the range of motion necessary for that particular lift. If you know anything about strength training, a rounded lower back whilst doing squats or deadlifts is very dangerous.
I figured there must be a way to correct my problems. I tried stretching. A lot of stretching. I made sure to stretch very thoroughly after each training session to ensure I was increasing my hip and hamstring flexibilty. Weeks and months went by with no pain relief whatsoever. Turns out that training and stretching correctly for 4-5 hours per week will not fix what 8-9 hours per day of sitting in a chair will do to you. I needed some help.
My research lead me to ART and MRT treatment protocols, especially the way athletes were being treated. I had a chance to chat with Børge Fagerli of MyRevolution. He recommended that I give ART a try and suggested some mobility/foam rolling exercises to do in the mean time. I am so glad I took his advice to seek help. I searched for an ART therapist in my area but could not find one who would accept my insurance. I finally found a great team of MRT therapists at a local chiropractic office just down the road. What a life saver.
I scheduled a consultation immediately. The first visit consisted of a few tests to determine the proper treatment. I was a classic case of the lower cross syndrome. In short, my hip flexors were very short and tight(from sitting all day), while my hip extensors were long and weak. We also ran a test and found that my glutes were not firing properly. This is your basic muscle imbalance that can cause a myriad of problems down the road. Because my hips were tight, my hams were tight and because my hams were tight, my lower back was sore. It all links together. Great! So I asked the good Dr. “how do we fix me”? He replied with “some good old cracks and pops followed up with MRT.”
What is MRT?
a form of soft tissue therapy intended for pain relief, increasing range of motion and balancing the body. Techniques include manual massage for stretching the fascia and releasing bonds between fascia, integument, muscles and bones are applied. The fascia is manipulated, directly or indirectly, supposedly to allow the connective tissue fibers to reorganize themselves in a more flexible, functional fashion.
How does this “release” happen you ask? Well, you must have another person(with experience) to perform the technique on you. The standard protocol usually involves them digging their thumbs deep into the affected area, applying pressure and elongating the muscle. Oh boy was this part fun! I will never forget my first visit.
The Infamous Psoas Release
My Chiropractor did all kinds of pops and twists that felt incredible. As soon as we were done I felt like I was walking on clouds. I walked on air right into the treatment room. There was a man and a girl in there who were working with patients one on one. I met my practitioner, Jay. He shook my hand and instructed me to lay on the table flat on my back. He then proceeded to do some PNF stretching for my hamstrings. Nothing new so far.
He then says “okay, I want you to relax your leg while I perform a psoas release.” In my head, I am like “oh! This is that ART stuff I have been reading so much about.” The next thing I know he is digging his thumb deep into my groin. It feels like my hip flexors were immediately on fire and I was seriously yelping like a little girl. The pain is hard to describe. It’s a cross between being tickled and tortured. I found myself laughing and screaming at the same time. Soon after the release was over I then had electrodes hooked to my lower back and then laid on this heated bed that massaged my lower back for about 10 minutes. Immediately after treatment I had a much greater range of motion than when I entered the building. I could do a full squat without any trouble. I actually had some strength in my hip flexors that was not present before the treatment. My initial visit was nothing short of amazing.
During my third visit the nice girl I met on my first day got the chance to work on me. She started off with the usual PNF stretching and then did this really cool psoas stretch that I wish I could perform on myself. I had a hunch she would be doing the psoas release on me since she was taking me through the usual routine. Thankfully, her thumbs weren’t as strong as Jay’s so she didn’t make me scream bloody murder. In this case it was more ticklish than anything. However it was nice to have a beautiful, brown eyed blond hovering over me for a change. I hope she gets to work on me again.
The Importance of Corrective Treatment
After just 3 weeks of treatment I feel like a million bucks. I plan to continue treatment until I am as good as new. Last week I did high bar back squats with no pain for the first time in months. I felt stronger than expected and I attribute that to doing what’s necessary to take care of the muscle imbalances I have developed over the past year.
I highly encourage anyone having similar issues to seek chiropractic and MRT services to regain your range of motion and improve training quality. It’s definitely one of the best decisions I have ever made.