Muscle Energy Technique (MET)
Muscle energy techniques are osteopathic techniques used by physical therapists to assess and correct asymmetry and dysfunction in the body. This asymmetry and dysfunction may be the response to an acute trauma (such as a muscle tear) or may be related to more chronic conditions (such as prolonged poor posture), both of which can cause certain muscles to lose their flexibility resulting in asymmetry between the left and right sides of the body.
MET can be used to help a variety of problems including dysfunction in the shoulder, spine and lower limbs, however it is most commonly used by physical therapists in the area around the pelvis in particular sacroiliac and pubic dysfunction or asymmetry.
MET is based on the principle of utilizing the muscle stretch reflex which stimulates muscles into relaxation by contracting them. There are two types of stretch reflexes physical therapists use. The first is reciprocal inhibition which stimulates the opposing muscle to lengthen a muscle (e.g. contracting the triceps muscle along the back of the upper arm to increase length of the biceps muscle along the front of the upper arm). The second stretch reflex is autogenic inhibition which stimulates the same muscle at end of range to increase its muscle length (e.g. straightening the arm so that the biceps is stretched and contracting it there at the end of range). Both of these techniques can be used by physical therapists as a hands-on treatment during a session and can be taught as home exercises too.
The way MET works is by increasing muscle length and thereby improving range of movement and function. Also when a muscle contracts, it pulls on its muscle attachments which can help to realign bones and joints thus improving symmetry and function that way
There are specific MET assessments that physical therapists perform which include an objective examination and palpation of the pelvic bones and their ligaments and tendons to determine what the problem is. We also examine patients perform certain movements which help us determine which side has the dysfunction. Based on these assessments, we can then develop a specific MET program for the patient to lengthen and strengthen the appropriate muscles and regain normal function which often is the key to relieving pain as well.
If you are experiencing lumbar or pelvic pain or feel stiff and tight, ask your physical therapist for an MET assessment.
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