Muscle energy technique, otherwise known as MET, is a large group of massage therapy methods that are used to improve muscle function and reduce pain. It can be used in any area of the body. The method was originally developed as a treatment by osteopathic medicine by Dr Fred Mitchell in 1948.
An important concept of muscle energy technique is that every muscle has it’s antagonist muscle. The antagonist muscle does the opposite action. For example, the biceps’ antagonist is the triceps. The biceps muscle flexes the elbow, whereas the triceps extends the elbow. When you contract a muscle, contraction of the antagonist muscle is reflexively turned off. This is known as Reciprocal Inhibition and is a hard wired reflex of the nervous system. Your massage therapist can use reciprocal inhibition to bring your muscles to a relaxed state.
To perform muscle energy technique, the patient’s joint is held a precise position. The patient is then asked to apply a specific force against the massage therapists hands. The patient may be asked to hold the contraction for up to five seconds. Using this technique, the active contraction of a muscle causes the reflexive relaxation of the antagonist muscle tension. You are using “muscle energy,” or force, to cause other muscles to relax. Using the above example, the massage therapist would ask the patient to flex his or her biceps and the therapist would provide resistance to the patient’s efforts. During the therapy, the joint is held in the exact same position throughout the muscle contraction. This is known as isometric contraction, where the muscle does not change in length while it is contracting.
Additionally, your massage therapist may use Post-Isometric Relaxation as part of your muscle energy technique. To do so, your massage therapist will stretch the muscle immediately after you are done contracting. This will lengthen the muscle, removing tension and improving your range of motion.