Posted by: Kevin G. Parker, D.C.
Written by: Poliquin Editorial Staff-3/28/2012 5:01:18 PM
A Closer Look at Active Release Techniques (ART)
Before we get started…a good article on: Healing Time of Soft Tissue
The history of a soft-tissue treatment that has revolutionized health care
There are many promising soft-tissue treatment methods that are helping to relieve chronic pain and improve athletic performance.
I’ve sponsored many of these at the Poliquin Strength Institute, such as frequency specific microcurrent, fascial stretching and the FAT-tool – and I’m looking forward to sponsoring many more. One great starting point in dealing with soft-tissue injuries, a method I have used and recommended for nearly 20 years, is Active Release Techniques®.
The creator of Active Release (ART) is Dr. Michael Leahy, who describes his method as a collection of hands-on soft-tissue techniques that treat alterations in tissue texture and tension.
But its value extends beyond muscles, as it can also treat injuries to muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves and a special type of connective tissue called fascia.
Among the numerous conditions that ART may help resolve are shin splints, sciatica, tennis elbow, headaches, back pain, and plantar fasciitis.
Unlike traditional massage or more aggressive soft-tissue methods such as Rolfing, with ART the area being treated is moved throughout its optimal range of motion to help restore function.
For example, if a muscle is under tension due to problems such as adhesions or scar tissue, over time this tension will cause weakness and lead to injury.
One such problem is carpal tunnel syndrome, an overuse injury that has become an increasingly common problem in the workplace.
Leahy has found that rather than requiring surgery, this injury can often be quickly and completely resolved by finding the tissue that is injured and using ART to restore the texture, tension and movement of the tissues involved.
Often, significant pain relief can be achieved in just a few minutes, and Leahy has found that even if the condition has persisted for several years, ART can resolve the problem in about three to six visits.
The ART Evolution and Revolution
Leahy graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1971 with a degree in engineering and became a fighter pilot and later a test pilot.
After fulfilling his military commitment in 1979, he decided to follow the career route of his identical twin brother and became a chiropractor.
He graduated from the Los Angeles College of Chiropractic with a 4.0 GPA, becoming the first person ever to do so.
Leahy was able to apply his knowledge of engineering to the human body to develop ART.
“That engineering degree helped me learn how to be very specific biomechanically,” says Leahy. “There’s no way I could have developed Active Release without having that engineering background.”
He originally called the treatment “neuromuscular reeducation,” but later changed it to Active Release Techniques treatment, then simply Active Release Techniques (or ART), as it more accurately describes what he does.
In 1995 I visited Leahy at his facility in Colorado Springs to learn more about the treatment.
I had been suffering from a shoulder injury that severely limited my range of motion and strength. Leahy said that my main issue was with the muscles in the rotator cuff.
“The problem was way up high in the armpit where a group of nerves cross the muscle; that muscle was injured to the point where it was tugging on the nerves. I separated the muscle from the nerve and then changed the muscle itself,” says Leahy.
After just a single, five-minute treatment I saw a dramatic increase in my range of motion. What’s also great about the treatment is that you don’t have to rest the area treated – Leahy even encourages you to return to your normal activity to ensure the muscle is working properly and to help restore normal biomechanics that might have changed due to the injury.
In fact, the next day I tried bench pressing and saw my 1RM increase by 35 pounds – again, after just one treatment. I was hooked, and immediately made arrangements to come back to Colorado Springs and learn the treatment so I could use it on my clients.
Although the technique can be quite painful, depending upon the nature of the injury, the good news is that the treatments are very brief.
Also, you’ll find that the more skilled the practitioner, the less likely the treatment is to be painful. There are few contraindications, although a practitioner will have to work carefully around areas that are chronically inflamed or have screws or plates.
Of course, getting treated by an individual who has not gone through Leahy’s training courses could cause more harm than good.
With athletes, I’ve found that if their progress has stagnated, it may be a result of a soft-tissue injury.
Fix the soft-tissue injury and you fix the problem – and with ART, often only a single treatment is necessary.
For example, many individuals who train with weights – from ordinary people trying to stay in shape to competitive bodybuilders – often develop adhesions that fuse together three of the biceps muscles (brachialis, brachioradialis and biceps brachii).
Many trainees have reported back to me that after those adhesions were removed by ART, their curling poundages increased by as much as 15 percent – again, often after just one treatment!
In his practice Dr. Leahy has been able to resolve over 90 percent of his patients’ problems; in fact, over a four-year period more than 100 individuals who had been scheduled for surgeries were able to avoid going under the knife after Dr. Leahy treated them.
But Leahy can’t treat the world, so in the 1990s he decided to switch from practitioner to teacher. He is continually expanding his course curriculum and now teaches his techniques to health care providers all over the world.
As both a client and an ART practitioner myself, I have seen firsthand the wonders of Active Release.
If you’re in pain or you’re an athlete who is looking for a proven method to improve your performance, you can visit Leahy’s website at activerelease.com to find a provider today!
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If you are suffering from: Sports Injuries, Sprains, Strains, Car accident, Herniated Disc, Disc Bulge, Degenerative Disc Disease, Neck pain, Headaches, Low back pain, of just want to feel better and have better life performance– please call our office in Irvine, California- at 949.857.1888or visit our website at ADJUST2IT to learn more about Functional Fitness Chiropractic, Sports massage,Myofascial Release, Corrective Exercise, Non Surgical Spinal Decompression, Class IV laser