How it works: muscle energy technique and its benefits

Posted In: Osteopathy

Our bodies need strong muscles to move and perform daily tasks. If our muscles and joints are stiff or causing pain, our quality of life can be severely affected. Muscle Energy Technique is an Osteopathic therapy that helps increase your range of motion and reduce pain caused by stiff or sore muscles and joints. 


Keep reading to learn more about Muscle Energy Technique and its benefits.

What is Muscle Energy Technique 

The Muscle Energy Technique (MET) was developed in 1948 and is a form of manual therapy in Osteopathy. It uses isometric contractions to relax your muscles, using the muscle’s own energy. Unlike static muscle stretching, where the therapist does all the work, the patient plays an active role in this technique. It can be used in most joint and muscle groups as a preventative treatment or to heal from injury.  

When do you need muscle energy techniques?

Muscle energy techniques are often helpful when you need to relax, lengthen the muscles, and increase the range of motion in joints. It’s popular amongst athletes as a preventative treatment to avoid injury in their muscles and joints during physical activity. Individuals with a limited range of motion in the neck and back also benefit from MET.


Muscle Energy Techniques can ease symptoms in those suffering from shoulder pain, scoliosis, sciatica, chronic muscle pain/stiffness/injury, and asymmetrical legs/hips/arms. 

Autogenic vs Reciprocal inhibition

Autogenic and reciprocal inhibition occurs when muscles cannot contract due to an activated Golgo tendon organ (GTO) and muscle spindles. 


Autogenic Inhibition: Your GTO is between your belly muscles and the tendon. When your belly muscles contract or stretch, the GTO is activated to inhibit the contraction by contracting the opposing muscle group. This is autogenic inhibition. 


Reciprocal inhibition: Your muscle spindle stretches along the belly muscle. When it is activated (stretched), the agonist muscle has a reflective contraction and a relaxation of the antagonist’s muscle. This is reciprocal inhibition. 

What are the types of Muscle Energy Techniques?

Based on the two types of muscle inhibition, different techniques may be performed: 

Autogenic Inhibition MET

Autogenic inhibition Muscle Energy Techniques use the GTO to inhibit your muscles’ contractions so the antagonist muscle can contract more freely and stretch further and easier. There are two main ways to do this:


Post Isometric Relaxation (PIR)

  1. The therapist stretches the hypertonic muscle to a length just before you experience the pain or when they begin to feel resistance. 
  2. They will then contract the hypertonic muscles 10-20% for about 5-10 seconds before applying resistance in the opposite direction. You’ll inhale during the resistance. 
  3. You’ll then exhale and relax your body. The therapist applies a gentle stretch to take off the slack to a new barrier. 
  4. This procedure is repeated 2-3 times, starting at the new barrier. 


Post Facilitation Stretching (PFS)

(Note: This technique is more aggressive than PIR)

  1. Your therapist will place your hypertonic and shortened muscles in a fully stretched and fully relaxed state. 
  2. You’ll contract your agonist muscle using a maximum effort for 5-10 seconds while your therapist provides counter pressure to resist.
  3. After those 5-10 seconds, you’ll relax while the therapist rapidly stretches the new barrier and holds it for 10 seconds. 
  4. You rest for another 20 seconds. 
  5. The process is repeated from the original barrier 3-5 times.  

Reciprocal Inhibition MET

Reciprocal inhibition MET involves contracting one muscle and then stretching the opposite muscle. Your Osteopath will perform these contractions and stretches using the following procedure: 

  1. The muscle is placed in a mid-range position
  2. You push towards the restriction while your therapist resists the force or allows movement towards it.
  3. You’ll relax with an exhale while the therapist passively stretches the new barrier. 
  4. The process is repeated 3-5 times. 

Examples of Muscle Energy Techniques

Muscle Energy Techniques can be performed by a MET therapist or done on yourself at home: 


You can see an Osteopath with experience in Muscle Energy Techniques to find relief from pain and muscle soreness or stiffness. While individual treatments and techniques may vary, here’s an example of how a therapist would perform MET on your hip external rotators:

  1. You lay on your back with legs straight in front. Then, you use your hip muscles to bend one leg to bring your knee up and place your foot flat on the floor so your leg is resting, bent. This is known as crook laying.
  2. The therapist will put one land over the lateral mid-thigh.
  3. The therapist’s other hand will go over the inferior mid-thigh.
  4. The patient will then abduct their leg against the therapist.


You can perform several Muscle Energy Techniques on yourself at home. These techniques can bring relief between your Osteopathy appointments. Here are a few METs you can do on yourself for your hips:

  • Hip flexion or hip extension: Lay in the crook position (see Step 1 of the therapist example above). Place your foot on the contralateral knee. Then bring your foot down against your knee and bring your knee up against your foot. 
  • Hip Adduction: Lay in a crook position with a ball between your legs. Squeeze the ball. 
  • Hip External Rotation: Lay in a prone position with hip and knee flexed 90 degrees. Have a partner (or your therapist) move your knee into an internal rotation as you push against them. 

Where to find a Muscle Energy Technique therapist

Thuja Wellness can be your Muscle Energy Technique therapist. Our Kitsilano clinic treats clients who want to embrace holistic healthcare for optimal health and wellness. We offer a range of Osteopathic consultations and therapies, including Muscle Energy Techniques. 


Book your appointment or assessment online to get started and experience the difference today.