Functional technique (Bowles 1981, Hoover 1969)

Excerpted from:  (Chaitow, Leon.  Muscle Energy Techniques.  2006, Elsevier Limited.)

Orthopedic functional technique ignores tenderness as its guide to the position of ease and relies instead on reduction in palpated tone in stressed (hypertonic/spasm) tissues as the body (or part) is being positioned or fine-tuned in relation to all available directions of movement in a given region.

A position of combined ease is achieved using what is known as a ‘stacking’ sequence.  One hand palpates the affected tissues (molded to them without invasive pressure).  This is described as the ‘listening’ hand since it assesses changes in the tone as the operator’s other hand guides the patient (or part) through a sequence of positions which are aimed at enhancing ease and reducing bind.

A sequence of evaluations is carried out, each involving different directions of movement (flexion, extension, rotation, side-bending, translation, distraction etc.) with each starting at the point of maximum ease discovered during the previous evaluation, or combined point of ease of a number of previous evaluations.  In this way, one position of ease is ‘stacked’ on to another until all directions of movement have been assessed for ease.  A position of maximum ease will be arrived at which is held (for the appropriate time) until there is a palpable release producing a reduction in pain.

The precise sequence in which the various directions of motion are evaluated is irrelevant, as long as all possibilities are included.

Theoretically (and usually, in practice) the position of maximum ease  (reduced tone) in the distressed tissues should correspond with the position which would have been found were pain being used as the guide as in the previously described approaches.

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