Here’s a question I’ve seen come up pretty often, both in our SI Joint Discussion group, as well as in my emails from readers. So I thought I’d take a moment to write up an official post to answer this question.
How often should you do the Muscle Energy Technique?
There are a few ways to answer to this.
The first answer is that you should do it as often as the physical therapist you are working with tells you to do it.
I strongly, strongly discourage people from trying to use the Muscle Energy Technique on themselves, simply after watching videos online.
I know there are a lot of these out there– I know, because I stumbled across many of them myself, in my search for answers.
The problem with trying to use MET on yourself, based off of an online video, is that you really need someone with experience to evaluate you in person, to see which way your SI joints are rotating.
There are many possible patterns of imbalance in the pelvis, and, as a result, there are many different forms of MET that are out there.
I really don’t know why people put up these “one size fits all” videos, because it’s simply unrealistic to expect the same techniques to work for all patients. You really, really need to know what imbalance you need to correct, or you can just make it worse.
So… let’s assume you are working with a physical therapist who’s trained in MET.
He or she will likely give you your own recommendations, however, I can tell you what my PT told me.
Start with NO MORE than once a day.
This is very important in the beginning.
My PT, Paula, made me promise not to use MET more than once a day. She said it was very important not to overdo it to the point where my muscles became sore and spasming, which was very easy to do in the beginning, when it was a movement they weren’t used to.
As if soreness wasn’t bad enough, a deeper reason for this is that, if the muscles became tired out and went into spasm, they could actually start pulling the joints too far in the direction you’re trying to move them into.
So let’s say you have an imbalance where your left hip bone is rotated backward. If you use MET too much, over time you could actually create the opposite problem, where your left hip bone has a tendency to rotate forward.
So Paula was very careful to monitor my progress, over the first couple of weeks.
She said that, as I started using MET on myself, it was very important I come in every week and not miss any appointments. She wanted to monitor me, again, and make sure I wasn’t overdoing it and creating any additional problems. Also, sometimes it’s the case that your pattern of imbalance can switch for other reasons– not simply from overdoing MET. So, essentially, she wanted to make sure that I still came in with the same pattern of imbalance (or no imbalance) every week, and that the technique she’d shown me to do was still the appropriate one.
Over time, I did build up to using MET much more often.
After a couple of weeks, I started doing it two or three times a day, and then graduated up to doing it about 5-8 times a day, as needed. (Having my awesome stretching table was a really important part of this– it allowed me to have the perfect surface, of the ideal firmness, without having to aggravate my hips getting down and up from the floor).
There were times I could tell I’d overdone it.
Most of the time, this manifested as pain in the hip adductors, around the pubic symphysis (check out this post for more).
But usually I’d just back off for a day or two and things would reset.
So I’d give it a few days where maybe I only performed MET once or twice. The muscle soreness would abate, and I’d go back to my normal routine of using it as needed.
So… my take-away from this post is that ideally, you really should be working one on one with a PT.
But for those of you who are working with a PT and still have questions, I hope this post helped to clear things up for you.