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What is Muscle Energy Technique?

Nicole Madison
Updated May 17, 2024
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Developed by an osteopathic physician named Dr. Fred Mitchell, the muscle energy technique is a non-invasive method of manual therapy. It is said to help with relieving pain, fixing joint issues, reducing edema and improving a person's range of motion. It is based on reciprocal inhibition, which is a theory that describes how muscles react. Based on reciprocal inhibition, the muscles located to one side of a joint relax when the muscles on the other side of the joint contract.

For this therapy, an indirect type of pressure, referred to as anti-force, is applied to the muscle, facilitating the relax/contract effect and optimal stretching. Essentially, the muscle energy technique uses the patient's muscle energy against anti-force, which is a stationary surface that the therapist provides. This enables the patient to stretch his muscle and the accompanying joint fully. The idea is that each contraction will stretch the muscle further.

The first muscle contraction in the muscle energy technique is referred to as an isometric contraction. This simply means that the muscle is made to work at a fixed length, even as tension builds. Sometimes breathing techniques are incorporated into muscle energy technique therapies. The breathing exercises may help the patient to relax during therapy. However, they are not used for every session.

The muscle energy technique is often used by athletes as a preventative measure against potential injury in the course of sports. The most common candidates for this technique are those with limited range of motion because of pain in the shoulders, neck and back. Also, those suffering from scoliosis and sciatica may find the technique useful. The muscle energy technique is also used to treat those with muscle pain and stiffness as well as those who have suffered some sort of muscular injury; it is even used in treating those with hips, legs, and arms that are higher or longer on one side of the body than those on the other side the body. Most practitioners agree that it can be beneficial for nearly everyone.

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Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison , Writer
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGEEK writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.

Discussion Comments

By Charred — On May 11, 2011

I used to suffer from tendinitis. I went to an orthopedic specialist and he gave me some transverse motion exercises for tennis elbow treatment. These helped to strengthen my muscles. They were quite effective and also helped to relieve some of the pain. I also applied the ice packs to reduce the inflammation.

By hanley79 — On May 05, 2011

I wonder how these strain and counterstrain techniques would work for treating spinal trouble in the upper back and neck. I have a pretty pronounced scoliosis of the spine in my back, and then my neck is actually too straight (straighter than the usual slight curve forward that people have, according to my chiropractor), and I was told that I would need to treat my neck in regular adjustments or it would give me trouble later in life. I wonder if this muscle energy transfer technique would help prevent trouble, or if it's just to treat pain once it's started?

Nicole Madison

Nicole Madison


Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a WiseGEEK writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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