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Muscle Energy Techniques Essay


Muscle Energy Technique (MET) is a manual therapy technique which uses a muscle’s own energy in the form of gentle isometric contractions to relax the muscles via autogenic or reciprocal inhibition, and lengthen the muscle.

As compared to static stretching which is a passive technique in which therapist does all the work, MET it is an active technique in which patient is also an active participant. MET is based on the concepts of Autogenic Inhibition and Reciprocal Inhibition. If a sub-maximal contraction of the muscle is followed by stretching of the same muscle it is known as Autogenic Inhibition MET, and if a submaximal contraction of a muscle is followed by stretching of the opposite muscle than this is known as Reciprocal Inhibition MET [1]

What is Autogenic and Reciprocal Inhibition?

Autogenic and reciprocal inhibition both occur when certain muscles are inhibited from contracting due to the activation of the Golgi tendon organ (GTO) and the muscle spindles. These two musculotendinous proprioceptors located in and around the joints and muscles respond to changes in muscle tension and length, which helps manage muscular control and coordination.

The GTO, located between the muscle belly and its tendon, senses increased tension when the muscle contracts or stretches. When the muscle contracts, the GTO is activated and responds by inhibiting this contraction (reflex inhibition) and contracting the opposing (antagonist) muscle group. This process is known as autogenic inhibition.

The GTO response plays an important role in flexibility. When the GTO inhibits the (agonist) muscle’s contraction and allows the antagonist muscle to contract more readily, the muscle can be stretched further and easier. Autogenic inhibition is often seen during static stretching, such as during a low-force, long-duration stretch. After 7 to 10 seconds, muscle tension increases and activates the GTO response, causing the muscle spindle in the stretched muscle to be inhibited temporarily, which makes it possible to stretch the muscle further.

The muscle spindle is located within the muscle belly and stretches along with the muscle itself. When this occurs, the muscle spindle is activated and causes a reflexive contraction in the agonist muscle (known as the stretch reflex) and relaxation in the antagonist muscle. This process is known as reciprocal inhibition.

Types of MET[1]

  1. Autogenic Inhibition MET a. Post Isometric Relaxation (PIR)[2]b.Post Facilitation Stretching (PFS)[3]
  2. Reciprocal Inhibition MET

Autogenic Inhibition MET

As already mentioned Autogenic Inhibition METs work on the principle of autogenic inhibition. The two major and well known types of MET that are based on the concept of autogenic inhibition are Post Isometric Relaxation (PIR)[2] and Post facilitation Stretching (PFS)[3].

Post Isometric Relaxation (PIR)

Post Isometric Relaxation is a technique developed by Karel Lewitt[2], Post Isometric Relaxation (PIR) is the effect of the decrease in muscle tone in a single or group of muscles, after a brief period of submaximalisometric contraction of the same muscle[1]. PIR works on the concept of autogenic inhibition.

The PIR technique is performed as follows[1]:

  1. The hypertonic muscle is taken to a length just short of pain, or to the point where resistance to movement is first noted
  2. A submaximal (10-20%) contraction of the hypertonic muscle is performed away from the barrier for between 5 and 10 seconds and the therapist applies resistance in the opposite direction . The patient should inhale during this effort.
  3. After the isometric contraction the patient is asked to relax and exhale while doing so.Following this a gentle stretch is applied to take up the slack till the new barrier.
  4. Starting from this new barrier, the procedure is repeated two or three times.

Post Facilitation Stretch (PFS)

Post Facilitation Stretch (PFS) is a technique developed by Janda[3]. This technique is more aggressive than PIR but is also based on the concept of autogenic inhibition.

The PFS technique is performed as follows:

  1. The hypertonic and shortened muscle is placed between a fully stretched and a fully relaxed state.
  2. The patient is asked to contract the agonist using a maximum degree of effort for 5–10 seconds while the therapist resists thepatients force.
  3. The patient is then asked to relax and release the effort, whereas the therapist applies a rapid stretch to a new barrier and is held for 10 seconds.
  4. The patient relaxes for approximately 20 seconds and the procedure is repeated between three to five times and five times more.
  5. Instead of starting from a new barrier, the muscle is placed between a fully stretched and a fully relaxed state before every repetition.

Reciprocal Inhibition MET

Reciprocal Inhibition MET is different from the above two techniques that it involves the contraction of one muscle followed by stretching of the opposite muscle, because contrary to PIR and PFS, Reciprocal Inhibition MET as the name implies is based on the concept of Reciprocal Inhibition.

The Reciprocal Inhibition MET technique is performed as follows[1]:

  1. The affected muscle is placed in a mid-range position.
  2. The patient pushes towards the restriction/barrier whereas the therapist completely resists this effort (isometric) or allows a movement towards it (isotonic).
  3. This is followed by relaxation of the patient along with exhalation, and the therapist applies a passive stretch to the new barrier.
  4. The procedure is repeated between three to five times and five times more.


Muscle Energy Techniques can be used for any condition in which the goal is to cause relaxation and lengthening of the muscles and improve joint range of motion (ROM). Muscle energy techniques can be applied safely to almost any joint in the body. Many athletes use MET as a preventative measure to guard against future muscle and joint injury. It is mainly used by individuals who have a limited range of motion due to facet joint dysfunction in the neck and back, and for broader areas such as; shoulder pain, scoliosis, sciatica, unsymmetrical legs, hips or arms (for example when one is longer or higher then the other), or to treat chronic muscle pain, stiffness or injury[4].

Key Evidence

Phadke, Apoorva, et al. "Effect of muscle energy technique and static stretching on pain and functional disability in patients with mechanical neck pain: A randomized controlled trial." Hong Kong Physiotherapy Journal 35 (2016): 5-11.


Muscle Energy Techniques by Leon Chaitow

Recent Related Research (from Pubmed)

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References will automatically be added here, see adding references tutorial.

  1. L, Crenshaw K. Muscle energy techniques. Elsevier Health Sciences; 2006.
  2. K, Simons DG. Myofascial pain: relief by post-isometric relaxation. Archives of Physical medicine and rehabilitation. 1984 Aug;65(8):452-6.
  3., V. 1988. Muscles and Cervicogenic Pain Syndromes. In Physical Therapy of the Cervical and Thoracic Spine, ed. R. Grand. New York: Churchill Livingstone.
  4. ↑
Figure showing the reflex neuro-muscular inhibition phenomenon
Muscle Energy Technique (MET) is an osteopathic diagnosis and manual treatment technique developed by Dr. Fred Mitchell, Sr., D.O.  MET can help to reduce joint stiffness, muscle tension, pain, swelling and therefore assist in restoring proper joint biomechanics, mobility, and postural alignment.  

The patient will undergo a whole body screening evaluation for restrictions and asymmetry of the joints,  and the findings are prioritized to find the most dominant restriction.  The therapist positions the joint at its restrictive barrier, and the patient is directed to perform a series of gentle isometric muscle contractions which relaxes and lengthens the muscle and fascial tension and allows the joint to return to its correct position.  The patient is then screened again to assess for subsequent changes in mobility and symptoms.  This can be rewarding for the patient as often immediate improvements can be seen and even felt.  

MET can be used in the treatment of a multitude of conditions:  low back pain, sciatica, pelvic imbalance,  neck pain, headaches, rib pain, respiratory dysfunction, upper and lower extremity dysfunctions, swelling, and postural deformities to name a few.  Because of the gentleness and the fact that the patient controls the amount of muscle force generated with the technique, it is appropriate to use in the following groups of people:  pediatrics, geriatrics, sports injuries, auto accidents, general orthopedic conditions, amputees, respiratory and neurological patients.
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