Active Release Technique (ART®)
Active Release Technique (ART®) Treats Soft Tissue Injuries, Relieves Pain, And Restores Normal Tissue Function.
ART® is a new and extremely effective approach to treating soft tissue injuries and the resulting pain. It is a patented method of treatment developed by Dr. Michael Leahy and is utilized by more than 3500 certified providers, including medical doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists, and athletic trainers worldwide. The technique is exceedingly popular with professional athletes and teams (NFL, NHL, NBA, etc.) and is used regularly by amateur and professional athletes alike, not only to help with rapid injury recovery, but also for improving their athletic performance. In recent years, this method of treatment has begun to gain recognition among the public as well, as more certified practitioners utilizing ART® have entered the healthcare arena.
Biomechanics and Physiology of Injury
Acute trauma or overuse, sometimes referred to as Repetitive Strain Injury or RSI, are the common causes of insult to the soft tissue (muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerves, joint capsules, fascia, etc.). Many of the routine daily activities performed at work or home or while playing sports can result in cumulative injuries to soft tissues. Some common examples of these activities/conditions are:
- Typing, keyboarding or repeated use of a mouse (Carpal Tunnel Syndrome)
- Running/Jogging (Shin Splints, Plantar Fasciitis, Knee & Hip pain, Tendonitis)
- Prolonged standing (Heel Pain, Leg Pain, Thigh and Back Pain)
- Prolonged sitting (Buttock and Lower Back Pain, Piriformis Syndrome)
- Repetitive wrist/forearm flexion/extension/rotation (Tennis Elbow, Golfer’s Elbow)
- Repetitive & prolonged shoulder rotation (Swimmer’s Shoulder, Rotator Cuff Tears)
- Repetitive bending & lifting (Low Back Pain, Sciatica, Muscle Strain)
- Sleeping on the stomach (Neck pain, Upper Back Pain, Cervicobrachial Syndrome)
- Poor Posture (Tension Headaches, Back pain, Neck pain, Arm & Leg pain)
- All athletic activities can result in RSI’s (Tendonitis, Sprains/Strains, Myofasciitis)
- Many other conditions/complaints/injuries
These injuries will result in a series of physiological responses:
The initial physiological response by the body is swelling or “Inflammation” in the affected area/tissue. During this phase, the circulation and accumulation of fluids within the injured tissue is increased as the body begins to control the damage and remove irritants from the site of injury. The inflammation will lead to increased tension and internal pressure within the injured tissue and the surrounding structures.
To heal the injury and stabilize the area, the body will begin the “Repair” process. Fibroblasts begin to create fibrous tissues. This consists of laying down fibrotic scar tissue and adhesions in and around the injured structures. This scar tissue is a lower grade of tissue than the original one and is both functionally and structurally deficient, lacking elasticity and limiting proper circulation and function. As circulation is reduced, tissue hypoxia (decreased oxygen) develops.
During the final 2 phases of “Remodeling” and “Maturation” the body is simply attempting to organize and orient the newly formed fibers to restore the injured tissue closer to its natural state. Unfortunately, as miraculous as the body is, it does a poor job in tissue restoration. The result is a tougher, less elastic, shortened and therefore weakened tissue, which causes restriction of motion between muscle layers as well as nerves. For the athlete, this means poorer performance and less than desirable results. For the public and athlete both, this means pain and discomfort at the site of injury; or in the case of peripheral nerve entrapments which are commonly caused after such injuries, pain, numbness and tingling radiating into the arms or legs. The resulting pain typically will start a process of “compensatory change”, which will begin affecting other tissues and structures in that kinetic chain.
How Can ART® Help?
ART® is a form of hands-on or “Manual Therapy”. It is a method of locating and treating the injured/affected soft tissue so that the process of “Repair, Remodeling, and Maturation” produces a better outcome in a shorter period. Clinical findings indicate that mechanical loading techniques such as ART® help produce increased wound healing ALONG the lines of the injured tissue. As a result, the healed structure is not only stronger and more resistant to future injury, but it also has improved functionality.
According to the latest research, Immobilization or bracing which is commonly used after traumatic injuries results in a prolonged healing time as well as a weaker healed tissue. Contrary to the above approach, ART® combines both passive and active Range of Movement (ROM) in its treatment protocols. Its specific approach allows for differentiation between various structures, thereby allowing the practitioner to locate and treat the CORRECT structure. Combining the manual loading technique with the proper ROM and the specificity of locating and treating the correct anatomical structure allows for the breakup of fibrotic tissues and their proper realignment during the healing cycle. ART® provides specific treatment protocols for over 300 muscular injuries and 100 peripheral nerve entrapments as well as many tendonous and ligamentous injuries. This is what sets ART® apart from all other soft tissue techniques and has caused many world class athletes and athletic professionals to turn to this method of treatment for help.
What is ART® Performance Care?
Performance Care, (a combination of biomechanics, analysis, Active Release Techniques, and exercises), acts to improve an athlete’s performance in his or her chosen sport.
We know that changes in the physiology of an athlete’s body can have a tremendous impact upon the time and effort required to perform an activity.
A difference of just a few seconds improvement in an athlete’s performance can mean the difference between a win or loss or the difference in a non-athlete of being injured or not.
Athletic training regimes, repetitive motions, (swimming, running, cycling), and overworked muscles all place a great deal of stress on an athlete’s body. These stresses cause physiological changes that cannot be counter-acted by simple exercise regimes. They require physical manipulation of the tissues to remove the problem and return the person to optimal performance.
ART®, with its ability to remove restrictive adhesive tissue, can help improve performance in any sport, from skiing, weightlifting, and football, to running, cycling, golf, and swimming.
How does ART® Performance Care Differ from ART® Injury Care?
ART® Injury Care deals with known, existing, identifiable injuries to soft tissue. Its goal is to remove the cause of these injuries and return the soft tissues to normal condition.
In contrast, ART® Performance Care is used to increase the performance of an individual, (speed, endurance, strength), by working with soft tissues to enhance their performance. Performance Care identifies unnoticed, or hidden restrictions in the motion of the body, and removes these restrictions to restore full function to the soft tissues. Performance Care requires a good understanding of the biomechanics of the human body.
When to use Performance Care?
Much of the time, Performance Care will not be associated with pain, but more of an intuitive feeling that ‘something is not correct’ or just not being able to have a good, strong workout. A person knows his/her body best. If you are feeling that you are not achieving your optimal performance, then Performance Care may be beneficial.
What is an ART® treatment like?
Every ART® session is a combination of examination and treatment. The ART® provider uses his or her hands to evaluate the texture, tightness and movement of muscles, fascia, tendons, ligaments, and nerves. Abnormal tissues are treated by combining precisely directed tension with specific patient movements.
These treatment protocols – over 500 specific moves – are unique to ARTÂ®. They allow providers to identify and correct the specific problems that are affecting each individual patient. ART® is not a cookie-cutter approach.
Why is Active Release Different?
Active Release is a successful approach to injuries of muscles, tendons, nerves, and the surrounding soft tissues. Active Release is not massage, physiotherapy, or chiropractic care. While those procedures relieve muscle and motion dysfunction, they do not necessarily address the underlying problems caused by scar tissue formation. Active Release has proven to be especially valuable for athletes, from the professional to the beginner.
Understanding Soft Tissue Dysfunction
To understand soft tissue injury, you must comprehend the basic mechanism of cumulative injury. Cumulative trauma disorder is the major injury problem in the workforce and the general population in this country. Federal statistics show that C.T.D. now surpasses back pain.
Symptoms of cumulative trauma disorders are sensations of tingling, burning, aching and weaknesses. When a muscle, tendon, ligament, or nerve is damaged from trauma or overuse, the body will attempt to repair the damage with scar tissue. These scar tissue adhesions left untreated perpetuate the cumulative injury cycle and result in progressive loss of function and increased pain. Soft tissue dysfunction often leads to a loss of flexibility, strength, and range of motion. People often attribute these losses to “just getting old,” but this is seldom the case.
Active Release separates, releases, and stretches the connective tissue adhesions, restores vascular and lymph circulation, and increases your range of motion, flexibility, and strength.
The treatments can be a bit uncomfortable, or even a little painful, but this pain is an important indicator that the problem has been located and signals that the treatments are correcting the injury. Patients often report that it “hurts so good.”
Regardless of your activity level you can benefit from Active Release. From those who are victims of car accidents — or even the proud weekend warrior — Active Release has proven to be a fast, effective, non-invasive way to heal a wide variety of soft tissue injuries.