For many of us, things like scar tissue and adhesions seem extremely abstract because they exist below the surface of what we can see. “Did I pull a muscle? Did I strain something? Is something out of place?” Those are the common questions we ask ourselves when something hurts. However, to the trained professional such as a Physical Therapist, the things we are experiencing and feeling are a solvable reality. They have the means to relieve and fix the issue. One of the most effective ways of relieving pain and injury to muscle and tissue is Active Release Technique, also known as ART. Scientifically defined, ART is a state of the art, patented treatment approach that utilizes movement and hands-on manual therapy to diagnose and treat soft tissue injury. Soft tissues include muscles, tendon, fascia and nerves.
Dr. P. Michael Leahy developed the technique over 30 years ago based on his experience working with elite level athletes and treating soft tissue injuries. He developed a systematic technique based on soft tissue changes that occur with injury.
Who can practice ART?
In order to legally and properly use ART, a healthcare professional must complete extensive hands on instruction and pass a series of tests administered by ART specialists. An ART certified practitioner is trained to treat over 300 muscle and facial injuries and over 50 nervous tissue entrapments! Each provider is required to recertify his/her skills in order to maintain expertise with the technique.
How do soft tissues cause pain?
Soft tissues can be injured from a variety of events ranging from: repetitive strains, adhesions, and traumatic events.
Different types of injury may cause changes in the tissue such as
- Acute: inflammation
- Repetitive strains: small micro tears
- Chronic: fibrosis and adhesions of tissue
Scar formation is a normal part of healing, but scar tissue may attach to surrounding structures, restricting motion and possibly compressing nerves and blood vessels required for healing. This situation may lead to pain, restricted movement and dysfunction in surrounding muscles and tissues.
How will ART help me?
As tough, fibrous tissue forms and decreases the health of your soft tissues, the ability for muscles to work effectively and contract alongside neighboring structures is compromised. Range of motion, strength and endurance is decreased and movement may become painful. Nerves may also become fibrotic which may lead to numbness, tingling, pain and weakness. ART helps improve the health of the tissue by using hands on mobilization of soft tissue in combination of systematic movement patterns.
Low back pain, neck pain, headaches, patellofemoral pain, achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, carpal tunnel and tennis elbow are a few of the many conditions that are related to overuse and repetitive injuries. These conditions can be treated quickly and effectively with ART.
What is a treatment like?
Active Release Technique uses combined movement and manual therapy to treat soft tissue injury. Once the issue is assessed, your therapist utilizes hands on treatment and patient range of motion to release the problem areas. So cool! Regarding how long and how many treatments, it depends on the severity and chronicity of the case. However, your therapist can estimate the length of treatment based on the first appointment and response to treatment. Often, most patients start experiencing improvement in their condition as soon as their first appointment and progress quickly.