Muscle Activation – Be Activated!
McTimoney Chiropractor Andrew Hunter DC writes:
The “Be Activated!” system of muscle activation is an innovative approach to correcting musculoskeletal dysfunction originated by South African Physio Douglas Heel. Douglas is a well known elite sports and celebrity Physio. He first came to public attention when he was Physio for the South African rugby team.
The starting point for the system is muscle testing. Sometimes it can be the case that systematic muscle testing can reveal hitherto unsuspected muscular weakness. The muscular weakness is “unsuspected” because the patient in the past has used other muscles to attempt to cover up a primary muscle weakness.
In this system the most important muscles are taken to be the hip flexors (psoas) and hip extensors (gluteus maximus, the “glutes”). To give an example, a patient may at first sight seem to be able to adequately perform a psoas (primary hip flexor) strength test. But then on further examination, it may turn out that the patient was holding his breath to try and boost up his psoas strength. When the patient is asked not to hold their breath, they then may fail the test.
Or, further a field, the patient may be clenching his jaw muscles when he passes the psoas test. Again, when he unclenches he may now fail the test. Or, the patient may lift his or her head when having the psoas muscle tested. It may be the patient no longer can pass the test when not lifting the head.
This information is useful on two levels. First, it may reveal certain muscles are over working. In this case the diaphragm or neck muscles. If this pattern persists long enough, it is suggested this over working may lead to fatigue and eventually to the possibility of injury. These overworking muscles are technically described as being “facilitated”. Secondly, the testing is useful because it reveals the often unsuspected primary weakness, in this case of the hip flexors. If the hip flexors are not doing their job adequately, these under-working muscles are sometimes described as “inhibited”.
The treatment protocols of the Be Activated system focus on a number of things. One of these is to get the patient to breath appropriately. This means that a body at rest should be using abdominal rather than upper chest breathing. Secondly, the Be Activated practitioner uses a number of soft-tissue techniques to work on dysfunctional muscles. Lastly, the (weak) inhibited muscles need to be reactivated by exercise. Now general exercise is often of little use for this purpose. If the exercise is not absolutely specific then the muscles which usually cover up the weakness will carry on overworking and the inhibited muscles will stay out of the loop. So the muscle activation system uses a number of highly specific exercises to target inhibited muscles. Initially this may involve the patient pushing against the therapist in particular positions and in specified directions before the patient is then able to exercise individually.
Chiropractor Andrew Hunter DC studied with Douglas Heel for his Level 1 “Be Activated” programme in April 2011 and completed Level 2 with Douglas in September 2011. For further information about muscle activation at his three London clinics contact Andrew Hunter on 07855 916 602.