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Active Release Techniques (ART) is a recently developed method for addressing soft tissue adhesions and dysfunctions. Active Release Techniques was developed by a doctor of Chiropractic based in Colorado, Dr. Michael Leahy. His Aeronautical Engineering degree and experiences from the U.S. Air Force Academy were combined with his knowledge of human systems to find a better way to treat soft tissue injuries. The result was Active Release Techniques.
ART provides a way to diagnose and treat the underlying causes of cumulative trauma disorders that result in symptoms of numbness, tingling, burning and aching. ART is a type of manual hands-on therapy that corrects muscular and soft tissue problems caused by adhesion formation as a result of injury, overuse or cumulative trauma.
Cumulative trauma disorder (CTD), repetitive stress injury (RSI), and repetitive motion injury (RMI), are all used to describe problems that arise from the cumulative injury cycle (CIC). Some common names of these conditions are Carpal tunnel syndrome, rotator cuff syndrome, chronic low back pain, whiplash injury, and poor posture. CTD's create physical signs and symptoms that are predictable and correctable using ART.
If you set a pendulum into motion, you don't have to keep pushing it each time, it keeps going! Our bodies respond in much the same way. That's why it hurts even after the stress is removed. The cycle can be started in three ways, Acute Injury, Repetitive Injury and constant Pressure or Tension. Left uncorrected, they lead to inflammation, adhesions/fibrosis, weak and tense tissues and decreased circulation all in a specific progression called the Cumulative Injury Cycle.
Our bodies are very adaptable as they have to be to survive. Our bodies protect us from damage with pain signals and repair damaged areas with scar tissue. Very often, we think we are "better" after the pain goes away, however, what has happened is that the problem area "healed" with scar tissue. You probably will not be aware of the problem until a later date, maybe years from the original injury. You can recognize adhesion problems by loss of function. Loss of function could be a decrease in range of motion, weakness, stiffness, soreness and many other symptoms that many like to call "getting older". More accurately it 's "getting stuck to yourself"
Our bodies contain special protein structures called connective tissue also know as fascia. This substance connects each part to other parts and the whole, very much like a flexible skeleton. When this tissue is healthy it is smooth and slippery, allowing the muscles, nerves, blood vessels or organs to move freely and function properly. Imagine a piece of scotch tape, the smooth side is healthy fascia, the sticky side is scar tissue or unhealthy fascia. Rub both sides of the tape along your skin to "feel" what an adhesion is like. The drag that you feel, the "pulling" sensation, is what an adhesion is like. These adhesions attach to muscles decreasing their ability to work properly. You really know when you have an adhesion on a nerve because you get many abnormal sensations like numbness, tingling or pain.
They may look and sound similar, but the procedures are actually very different and the results they produce are very different. There are many types of massage that generally promote relaxation and circulation. Neuromuscular Massage gets more specific but it does not fix the soft tissue and make it work properly. ART is protocol specific for the correction of adhesions & scar tissues. Anyone who has had ART can tell you, It's NOT massage! Does ART help Trigger Points? Yes, trigger points are tender spots in muscles that cause you to feel referred pain. For example, a trigger point in your infraspinatus muscle, the lower half of your shoulder blade, will tell your brain that there is a problem in the front of the shoulder. "Where it hurts it ain't!" By correcting the muscle function the trigger point goes away and so does the pain referral. Trigger points are a great indicator that ART is the treatment you need!
Proficiency at ART takes a long time to develop. Training is hands on. The right touch is the most difficult aspect learn. It takes a strong commitment of time effort and resources to become a provider. A few desire to do what it takes. Consequently, there is a small but growing number of providers that have been personally trained by Dr. Leahy. ART is rapidly becoming THE choice for TOP athletes.
How do I know if someone Provides Active Release? "Active Release? Oh yeah, I do that, it's like myofascial release right?" Oh really? Ask to see the provider certificate signed by Dr. Leahy. Many practitioners may say they do, when actually they do not. There are many types of treatments for soft tissue that other people call active release. Call the ART home office for verification of their credentials at 719-473-7000.
ART has become regarded as a kind of "miracle treatment" for pro-level athletes. Big names like Donovan Bailey, Olympic gold medalist and Gary Roberts a hockey player, have benefited from ART. Roberts was able to return to hockey after two neck surgeries failed to correct his dizzy spells- he credits Dr. Leahy and ART with fixing the problem. Clearly, ART can help everyone to one degree or another.
Sometimes surgery is a clear-cut case as with a torn meniscus or ligament. Yet other times it is less clear cut. Chronic pain and joint trouble may actually be in the muscles and connective tissue and not in the joint. If you surgeon wants to “Scope it and see what happens”, you should consider ART. It is very common to restore proper function to a particular muscle or group of muscle and have the chronic symptoms disappear. You need to know what is wrong to properly correct it, therefore, consider ART before surgery. Once you cut, that's it, and you then have new scar tissue to deal with PLUS the original adhesions in the muscles that were there before. It makes sense doesn't it?
ART is not a magic bullet or cure-all. ART is noninvasive, very safe and has virtually no side effects and comes with a record of very good results.
Treatments can be uncomfortable during the movement phases as the scar tissue or adhesions "Break up". This is temporary and subsides almost immediately after the treatment. It is common to feel a duplication of your symptoms during the treatment, a good indication that the problem has been identified. Treatments are about 8-10 minutes per area treated and vary in number from 2 to 10 visits typically. Chiropractic manipulation is frequently done in addition to ART to increase the effectiveness. Patients report that "It hurts good".
Usually, the changes are permanent but ultimately the answer depends on the patient compliance with recommendations for after care. "If you keep doing what your doing, you keep getting what your getting". This is true for those with repetitive strain injuries (RSI) or cumulative trauma injuries. To not alter the patterns that got you injured in the first place will only cause the problem to recur. An important part of ART treatments is the provider's recommendations to activity modification, stretching and exercises. Each individual is expected to commit to the suggestions for the best results.
What conditions can ART help?
The list is extensive. To name just a few conditions: rotator cuff injury (4 muscles that move and stabilize the shoulder), tendinitis (runners shin splints, golfer's elbow, tennis elbow), bursitis (the body's anti-friction device for tendons), muscle pulls or strains, frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis, knee pain (problems with quadriceps and iliotibial band), muscle weakness, strength imbalances, poor flexibility, poor posture, chronic muscle or joint pain and stiffness, on and on... If you think you have "tried it all and nothing has worked", you probably have not had ART.
Performance of any task: golfing, typing and running faster can be improved significantly with ART. Restoring proper muscle function and movement enables the body to perform at its most efficient level. Adhesions create drag and tension, which requires more energy and effort to accomplish a desired movement. Reaction times are also improved as muscle function is improved. ART allows the body to do what you ask of it when you need it!