Advanced Stretching (MET, PNF, Active Isolated, myofascial)
Advanced stretching not only feels great, but greatly improves the effectiveness of other bodywork techniques such as trigger point therapy and deep tissue work. Stretching can be invaluable in the treatment of pain conditions, muscular stiffness and in the rehabilitation of strains and sprains. Advanced stretching reduces the chance of muscular strains and can help improve both the flexibility and performance of athletes. My advanced stretching techniques can be used to stretch every major muscle/group in the body.
Muscle energy technique (MET) or PNF stretching involves using light muscular contraction prior to stretching to increase the stretch on a muscle. The light muscular contraction helps to relax the muscle and also limits the body’s protective reflex to contract a muscle which is being stretched to prevent over-stretching. MET allows the therapist to lengthen, short/tight muscles more effectively and to get better results when treating muscular tension, stiffness and pain. Structural MET involves the therapist specifically positioning the client then using the light muscular contractions of the client to correct structural problems. The pull of the clients contracting muscles is used to move vertebrae, joints or an area of spine back into place. Structural MET can also be used to improve mobilisations effectiveness by helping to relax the muscles surrounding a joint or vertebrae.
Active isolated stretching was developed by American therapist Aaron L. Mattes to improve the effectiveness of stretching in sports people, and to promote fast and healthy tissue regeneration following injury. The technique involves lightly contracting the muscle whose action opposes the muscle to be stretched (antagonist), prior to stretching. Contraction of the antagonistic muscle causes the muscle that needs to be stretched to automatically relax, this natural phenomenon being called reciprocal inhibition. Another important factor in active isolated (AI) stretching is that the actual stretch is only held for two seconds, then the antagonist will be contracted, then the two second stretch is repeated. This process is repeated a number of times until the therapist has archived the desired increase in range of movement (ROM). The reason AI stretching only uses only a two second stretch is to prevent the body’s muscular contract reflex occurring (this takes 2 seconds to begin). This reflex evolved to protect the muscles by avoiding over-stretching, but can hinder the effectiveness of therapeutic stretching. Active isolated stretching has many health benefits including increasing tissue elasticity, facilitating tissue growth and repair, reducing muscle spasm, improving tissue circulation/nutrition/oxygenation, removal of lactic acid and metabolic waste products, realignment of muscle fibres and reduction in the friction and gluing between fascial sheaths/fibrosis. AI stretching can also improve sporting performance, reduce the risk of injury and help a fast and full recovery from muscular strain.
Myofascial stretching of fascial sheaths and subcutaneous fascia may also be used when treating pain conditions, chronic stiffness and structural/postural abnormality. Myofascial stretching involves applying a very gentle stretch to a muscle group/area of fascia for a relatively long period of time (2-5 minutes) and waiting until the fascia begins to lengthen/release (see ‘Myofascial release’).