An interview with Tom Ockler

Tom, can you briefly explain what is MET? What is the difference with stretching.
MET stands for Muscle Energy Technique. It is an Os- teopathic-based method that does not use manipulation to correct asymmetry and hypo-mobilities in the body. Since it relies on the muscle  spindles, it actually has advantages over stretching because it is theorized to reset the muscle spindle to actually lengthen the muscle and not just stretch it.
Usually, we learn MET for lengthening muscles, but in your books and DVDs you also focused on joints, ribs and vertebrae. Why and what’s the benefit for bodyworkers to learn these techniques?
There are two main types of Muscle Energy Techniques: One technique for large muscle groups and one for articular restrictions / hypo-mobility. So often, smaller muscles can get reset and pull / restrict bones and joints, thus creating pain and lack of range of motion. Having these two techniques in your “bag of tools” can effectively treat just about any somatic asymmetry and hypo-mobility you find.
In your book, you mentioned ‘Bone is the Slave to Muscle’?
Yes, this is an Osteopathic phrase to remind us that the bones / joints are not stuck out of place by some physiologic glue but rather, held out of place by muscles that have too much tone and have been “reset” to be too short and too sensitive to stretch. Therefore, since a manipulation may produce an analgesic effect to temporarily reduce pain, Muscle Energy, when done properly, is designed to correct the problem and not just cover up the pain. In other words, since the problem is in the muscle, why spend your time treating the joint.
You also stressed a lot on breathing in your work, can you tell us the importance of correct breathing, and how bodywork can help.
It takes about 3-4 full seconds to reset the muscle spindle back to normal. That is just about the amount of time it takes to take a nice breath in and out. Also, and perhaps even more importantly, deep breathing is known to have a direct synaptic connection to inhibit the gamma motor neuron cell body that is located in the anterior horn of the spinal cord. Therefore the deep breath assists in the actual resetting of the muscle spindle by inhibiting firing of the gamma motor neuron and thus the interfusal fibres of the muscle spindle itself. One more thing, we don’t breathe well and good deep breaths are very healthy for all of us.
Why do you need to ‘treat’ the ribs?
Since deep breathing is such a big help to doing muscle energy as well as reversing and preventing so many diseases, if the ribs are painful and don’t expand well, you have difficulty breathing. Once a pattern of shallow or belly breathing is learned and maintained, we begin our slow downward spiral of ill health and hasten our death. As you may know, Joseph Pilates was very big
on breathing. So by treating rib restrictions you can get proper breathing back on track and really improve the life expectancy or what I like to call the “thrife expectancy.” In other words, how long you actually thrive, not just how long you live.
You also have a passion on Alternative Medicine, we obviously don’t feel that Alternative Medicine should only be used as a last resort.
I’m in favour of anything natural and simple that keeps us healthy. In most cases, that is in direct opposition to our current, income-based conveyor belt form of medicine. Unfortunately, in the USA, our health care system is the number one cause of death. Time to change that