Myoskeletal Alignment

What Are Myoskeletal Alignment Techniques®(MAT)

They are a system of bodywork routines used here at Manchester-Bedford Myoskeletal as a method of addressing soft tissue compensations which cause postural problems and could eventually create pain in the body. 

Erik Dalton

Erik Dalton, PhD

MAT® are soft tissue manipulative techniques developed by Dr. Erik Dalton, PhD, a Rolfer® and Licensed Massage Therapist, founder of the Freedom From Pain Institute in Oklahoma City, OK in the 1990’s.

Dalton intends the certified practitioners of MAT to bridge the perceived gap between bony manipulators (manipulative osteopaths and chiropractors) and soft tissue manipulators (licensed massage therapists) to bring a more complete form of remedial bodywork to our “flexion-addicted society”.  MAT are developed upon several scientific musculoskeletal theories, observations, and studies conducted in the last century within the medical community.

The Theory

The motor control center (MMC) of the brain which coordinates muscle movement chooses which muscles to use when a movement is required. For a variety of reasons, certain muscles tend to become neurally inhibited by other muscles which tend to become neurally facilitated. When this occurs, the MMC calls on secondary muscles to do the work, effectively creating a compensation pattern. In time, facilitated muscles become overworked and can pull the bones of the skeleton out of alignment. An example of this is known as Upper and Lower Crossed Syndrome.

In order to compensate for misalignment in the body, muscles that flex in movement tend to shorten and neurally weaken. Muscles that extend in movement tend to elongate and hold an isometric contraction in order to disallow further misalignment, protect the spine and central nervous system from damage. Eventually, the isometric, eccentric contraction in muscles send noxious afferent messages to the brain, and we feel pain.

The intrinsic muscles of the spine, tiny muscles which attach one vertebrae to another and stabilize them, affect how vertebral bodies move in relation to one another.

When tissue on one side of the vertebrae shorten, joints on that side lock open or closed. When a series of vertebrae in a row lock closed, a curve develops in the spine — a scoliotic curve. When both sides shorten, joints on both sides lock open or closed. This results in a limitation in spinal flexion (bending forward) and extension (bending backwards). Sometimes, pain appears with joint locking; but oftentimes, no pain is felt. Instead, the limitations are the only apparent symptom.

Myoskeletal Alignment Techniques are designed to tone down facilitated muscles so they are no longer overactive. Then, further techniques are applied to wake up inhibited muscle spindles and get them to fire properly again, in the correct order.

How It Works

MAT incorporates western-style massage, manipulative fascial techniques, and other manual therapies such as muscle testing, muscle energy techniques, joint mobilization, stretching, and proprioceptive resets, etc, to achieve better results than ordinary soft tissue massage produces alone.  Protocols are applied in sequence, and we look for gross rather than specific measurement results.

MAT were developed for functionally-caused, common compensatory strain patterns found in the human musculoskeletal system.  Such patterns are also often determined in patients whose strain or pain patterns are caused by other reasons, such as genetics, disease, deformation, poor injury repair, joint replacement, etc.  However, MAT will likely NOT correct such dysfunction.

Each patient is first assessed before treatment begins.  The therapist then develops a treatment plan based on assessment findings and this plan is discussed with the patient.  Treatment then begins.  Patient is reassessed at the beginning of each visit to determine how the body adjusted, if at all, to the previous treatments.  When assessments no longer turn up gross dysfunction, majority of patients move into a maintenance status and visits are scheduled further apart.


How Are Myoskeletal Alignment Techniques Applied?

There’s no easy answer to this.  MAT are applied in many different ways, and to understand them, one must really undergo a treatment. Any application of techniques combines a number of modalities and movements, both active and passive, on the part of the therapist and the patient.

During assessments, patient is placed in several different positions and goes through several functional movements. Therapist observes body position, range and fluidity of motion or lack thereof, and may apply resistance to certain movements and positions to check validity, muscle firing order, muscle facilitation and inhibition, and so on.

Throughout treatment sessions, gross compensations are checked for and a variety of techniques are applied to begin to remedy them.  As large group compensations are resolved, smaller group and individual muscles are further resolved to return the normal balance and firing order to compensatory strain patterns.  Nearly all of these are applications of Myoskeletal Alignment Techniques.


If you are interested in learning Myoskeletal Alignment Techniques®, Dr. Dalton teaches two workshops a year, a three-day seminar in Oklahoma City, OK, and a five-day course in Costa Rica. Erik’s good friend, Master Myoskeletal Therapist and the Dalton Gang’s right-hand man, Paul Kelly, teaches several workshops each year around the USA. Other Master Myoskeletal Therapists also hold many workshops in the US and Aubrey Gowing teaches MAT in Ireland, UK.

In addition to intensive hands-on workshops, Erik has many at-home courses on DVD and online learning. All of these avenues lead to Myoskeletal certification. For more information on Myoskeletal trainings including technique videos, blog posts, and articles Dr. Dalton has published, as well as a list of certified Myoskeletal Alignment practitioners, follow the links.

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