March 9, 2011

062 Muscle Energy Technique [10 May 2010]

I recently took a course in Muscle Energy Technique (MET) for the upper thoracic and cervical spine (upper back and neck). A year ago I had taken the course for the lower back from the same instructor – Judy Smith of Nanaimo, BC.

MET is a system of techniques for releasing restrictions or dysfunctions in the spine. When we bend forward or backwards, the vertebrae should move freely within their normal range of motion. Each spinal joint has 6 sets of small deep intrinsic muscles which flex, extend, side-bend right or left, and rotate right or left. When one or more of these muscles are hypertonic (a technical term for “too tight”) the joint becomes “stuck” on that side.

A vertebral dysfunction can cause decreased movement, bending or twisting of the spine, reduced circulation, neurological effects such as nausea, tinnitus or headaches, and of course pain. Untreated these dysfunctions can remain in our body for years.

Because these intrinsic muscles are quite small and very deep in on the vertebrae, they can’t be accessed directly by massage. Instead we use the MET techniques to release them and reset their normal length, tone, and sensitivity to stimulus.

MET works by placing the body in the precise position to engage the affected muscle, gently contracting the muscle against resistance, then gently stretching it to its new length. MET does not use high velocity joint manipulation and is entirely pain free. It can even be done through clothing.

In a typical MET session, the therapist will check the entire spine from the sacrum to the top of the neck, testing each joint for mobility in both flexion (forward bending) and extension (backward bending). Any dysfunction discovered is released before moving on.

I am finding MET to be an effective tool in my massage practice for treating back and neck pain. I’d like to find out what it can do for you.

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