The Mézières Method is a rehabilitative technique created by French physiotherapist Françoise Mézières in 1947.
The Mèzières Method is a scientific technique based on physic-mathematical concepts applied to the musculoskeletal system.
It is an individual rehabilitative technique with a systemic postural approach which determines functional recovery through body symmetry restoration.
The Mèzières Method individuates the cause of the symptoms in mechanical articulatory movements. Mézières studies believe that when mechanical movement conflicts are not congenital or contracted, they are caused by asymmetric shortening of the muscles.
It operates on joints through muscle strength re-education. This re-education occurs through the reduction of the opposing strength of the myofascial system (stiffness, shortening, increase of the basal tone).
The Mézières Method operates both in an analytic and systemic way: analytically in recalibrating the myofascial strengths that generate mechanical intra-articular conflict causing the symptoms, and systemically in recalibrating the myofascial factors which alter the correct postural asset.
It’s Muscle Tone…
Not a lack, as it is commonly believed, but an excess of it in some muscles (Muscular Chains).
It is this excess of muscle tone which is the cause of our musculoskeletal disorders and bad posture. There are no muscles which can lengthen our spine and untwist us.
Therefore, strengthening muscles to obtain good posture leads to more distortions and pains. Decreasing the excess of tone in the Muscular Chains and therefore giving them the slack the body needs allows for a return towards normal shape and removes the cause of most of our musculo-skeletal disorders.
The Mézières’ method contradicts the modern obsession with toning-up. Most physical therapies and fitness regimes are based on the belief that without strengthening exercises, we would collapse under the pull of gravity, slip a disk, and become flabby.
This belief is the source of ineffective and even harmful treatments and exercises. Mézières found that some muscles overlap like tiles on a roof to form ‘muscular chains’. Through this linkage, the chains acquire an amazing power which is the sum of the strengths of all their components. It is this formidable force that distorts us, makes us stiff, freezes our joints and squashes our inter-vertebral disks. In other words, our musculoskeletal disorders and bad posture are not caused by weakness but rather by compressive forces created by the constant shortening of our muscular chains.
The Mézières’ method uses novel and subtle neuromuscular techniques including specific postures, a particular type of breathing, and hands on work by the therapist. The method is designed to decrease the excess of tone which is always found in the muscular chains. This allows the body to return towards a much improved shape and posture. And since shape conditions function, painful disorders of musculoskeletal origins disappear. As an added bonus, the weak muscles such as the abdominal and front of thigh muscles are naturally strengthened.
Although made of several muscles, muscular chains always behave like a single muscle. They always end up too tight and too short, in other words they harbour too much tone. The shortening of the muscular chains pulls us out of shape and distorts us in any number of ways. Now, since any departure from the ideal shape will inevitably cause pain and malfunction, restoring ideal shape has a powerful therapeutic value as it addresses the primary cause of our musculo-skeletal ills. The normalisation of morphology is the most efficient way, the only lasting way, to ‘cure’ back and related pains.
Mézières used to say that we make wheels round because square ones don’t work.
This is a concise way to illustrate the intimate relationship that exists between function and shape. The perfect fulfilment of function goes hand in hand with perfect shape which we call beauty. ‘Beauty’ is ‘fitness expressed’. When we say that someone is in a good shape we refer unknowingly to a natural law which states that form (shape) conditions function.
A sense of beauty is innate in human beings but sadly it has been seriously neglected in our culture. As a result, many distortions are believed to be normal by both the layperson and the physical therapist and only major deformities are thought to be worthy of treatment. Worse, some distortions – an outrageously curved lower spine for example – are cultivated under the delusion that they are elegant, charming or sexy. Or else, they are ignored and forgotten simply because they don’t yet hurt us directly, and we can hide them, like our feet which are a good case in point.
Other distortions are believed to run in the family when in fact they are acquired – the result of a constant tightening of our muscular chains. As W. R. Inge, a British churchman and writer, wrote: “We tolerate shapes in human beings that would horrify us if we saw them in a horse.”
Are you in good shape?
The therapeutic goal of the Mézièrist is to remodel or ‘sculpt’ the body towards the ideal morphology. Generally speaking, it requires the outlines of the body to be symmetrical, made up of straight and oblique lines.
See how far you measure up to this ideal shape as follows:
Using a mirror, wearing only your underclothes, observe yourself in a standing position with feet together from heels to big toes.
- The shoulders, collar-bones, and nipples should be level and symmetrical
- The lateral outline of the thorax should be straight and diverge from the iliac crests of pelvis to the armpits
- The space between arms and thorax should also be symmetrical
- The position with feet in contact from heels to the end of your big toes should be easy to achieve and should not create any strain or discomfort
- The knees, calves, inner (medial) ankle bones and the tops of the thighs should touch slightly
- The long axis of the leg should pass through the middle of the knee, ankle and second toe
your toes should be spread out and the sides of your feet should be oblique and in a straight line, apart from the inner (lateral) sides which are notched by the longitudinal arches which should be visible
- The inner ankle bones should be higher than the external ones
the nape of the neck should be long and full, i.e., it should not show three grooves and two prominent muscular cylindrical masses
the shoulders, shoulder-blades and hips should be symmetrical and level
the shoulder-blades should not stick out but should just be discernible
the heels and the head should aligned vertically
the nipple should be the anatomical point which is furthest forward
the breast bone should be straight and in a forward and downward oblique direction from its upper to its lower ends. It should form a 45° angle with the long axis of the body
below the nipple, the outline of the thorax and abdomen should be straight down to the pubic bone and slightly inwardly oblique
the outline of the back should be visible, the arm dividing the thorax one third in the back and two thirds in the front
the middle finger should fall in the middle of the lateral side of the thigh
the head and neck should be in line with the torso. The feet should be at right angles with the lower leg and the thighs should be in line with the lower legs
Any departure from this ideal shape is a potential source of pain and malfunction.
further reading on Osteopathy
Eleonora is an Osteopath, Nutritionist, Pilates and Mezieres Method instructor.