Soft tissue manipulation: neuromuscular and muscle energy techniques

J Neurosci Nurs. 1997 Apr;29(2):123-7. doi: 10.1097/01376517-199704000-00006.


Muscle rigidity and spasms occur with neurological disease and may contribute to contractures and shortening of muscle fibers that can interfere with motor behaviors, such as ambulation, or activities of daily living, such as combing hair, feeding or dressing. The neuromuscular technique (NMT) and muscle energy technique (MET) are nursing interventions that can reduce pain and muscle rigidity, lengthen muscle fibers and increase range of motion necessary for normal motor behavior. Nurses can use these techniques in patients with acute neurological diseases and those recovering in rehabilitation and long-term care settings. With some neurological diseases, muscle rigidity, increased muscle tone and muscle spasms reduce the range of motion of joints and the quality of movement. These changes often lead to contractures and impairments in performing daily tasks or ambulating, and thus, to loss of independence. Soft tissue manipulation can be used to reduce muscle tension and spasms, reduce pain and enhance the range of motion of joints whose function depends on the involved muscles. Soft tissue manipulation may also improve movement during specific tasks. Although the muscle relaxation achieved with manipulation techniques is primarily short-term, long-term effects occur. This article describes two techniques of soft tissue manipulation, their mechanisms of action, assessment and implementation. A case study is used to illustrate application of the techniques and possible long-term effects.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Contracture / etiology
  • Contracture / nursing
  • Humans
  • Manipulation, Orthopedic / nursing*
  • Muscle Rigidity / etiology
  • Muscle Rigidity / nursing
  • Neuromuscular Diseases / etiology
  • Neuromuscular Diseases / nursing*
  • Nursing Assessment
  • Physical Therapy Modalities / nursing
  • Spasm / etiology
  • Spasm / nursing
  • Supranuclear Palsy, Progressive / nursing
  • Treatment Outcome