MET is also used by many professionals including Osteopaths, Chiropractors, Physiotherapists and Sport Massage therapists to aid soft tissue therapy.
MET involves client participation and is a stretching technique aimed at lengthening tight muscles. Tense muscles can become short; pulling on the bones they attach to and thus have the potential to change the position of a joint causing pain and discomfort.
Two types of MET: 1) Post Isometric Contraction
2) Reciprocal Inhibition
Post Isometric Contraction or P.I.R.
Using their knowledge of anatomy, the therapist will find which muscles are short or are restricting joints and will stretch the muscle(s) until a resistance is felt, or a ‘barrier’. Once the barrier is found the therapist will keep the muscle stretched in this position for around 20 seconds. They will then ask the client to contract this muscle against light resistance from the therapist and hold this contraction for 10 seconds. Towards the end of the 10 seconds the therapist will ask the client to take a deep breath in and when they breathe out to relax the muscles being contracted. As the area is relaxed the muscle will ‘give’. This is due to a phenomenon of the neuromuscular system where as soon as the muscle is released it becomes inhibited for about 5 seconds during which time the therapist will be able to stretch the muscle to increase its length. This is held for about 30 seconds to fix this new resting length in muscle memory and the whole technique is repeated until no further lengthening is observed (usually 2-3 times).
Reciprocal Inhibition or R.I.
This is based on the principle that when a muscle contracts, the opposing muscle to this action will be relaxed. It is therefore a better technique to use if there has been a recent acute injury since the opposing muscle is contracted rather than the injured one.
In contrast to PIR, the inhibitory reaction is instant so as soon as the contraction stops, so too does the reciprocal inhibition. The therapist instantly moves to lengthen the muscle and holds it in its new resting length for 30 seconds. This is repeated until no further lengthening is observed.
MET should not be used on a muscle that has recently gone through a trauma such as a Grade 1 to 3 strain, recent surgery or a sprain of ligaments. It can have an adverse affect on the muscle by increasing the blood flow to the area or causing a tear to the repairing fibres and can increase pain or lengthen the rehabilitation process.
An example of MET on a muscle that commonly needs stretching is the stretch on the Pectoralis Major muscle across the front of the chest and shoulder. With the client lying on their back and with their shoulder just off the edge of the couch, the therapist will ease the client’s arm out to their side and slightly above their head. When a restriction is felt or a ‘barrier’, the arm will be held in this position for around 20 seconds. The therapist will then ask the client to try and move their arm horizontally across their body to contract their pectoralis muscle lightly against resistance from the therapist. When approaching 10 seconds, the client is to take a deep breath in and to relax their arm and shoulder as they breathe out. As the shoulder relaxes the arm will lower further towards the floor and a greater stretch can be applied to the Pectoralis Major by the therapist easing the arm towards the floor.
If we were trying to lengthen the Pectoralis Major using RI technique, when the arm was stretched out to the client’s side instead of trying to move their arm horizontally across their body against resistance, they would try and push their arm towards the floor, thereby contracting the muscles between the shoulder blades. This leaves Pectoralis Major relaxed and on exhalation and relaxation of the shoulder the arm can be guided towards the floor thereby stretching the intended muscle.
MET is a great technique if you are feeling restricted in a particular area of your body, such as hamstrings, adductors or the shoulder area as we mentioned above. If you are wanting to improve your flexibility for day-to-day comfort or for increased athletic performance then book in for a Sports Massage with one of our therapists at YOU Massage Therapy Southampton.