Active Release Technique

Active Release Technique (ART)

The Killer 15-minute Massage

Active ReleaseThere are so many styles of massage, ranging from the most relaxing rub-down to specific treatment for sports or injuries. If there is one “magic bullet” in massage, however, it’s Active Release Therapy (ART).

When I mention sports massage or Rolfing in conversation, people nod their heads in recognition. When I say “ART,” I get a blank look.

ART is loosely related to myofascial release, or the release of the network of soft connective tissue in the body. However, ART is a patented technique that treats tightness in or problems with muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nerves, quickly and effectively. ART is based on the fact that muscles do not work in isolation. Muscles only work properly if the surrounding connective tissue is healthy and functional, and vice versa. Specific injuries almost always mean overuse and extreme tightness in a particular muscle or muscle group, which in the long term can also mean scar tissue in the problem area.

Active Release MassageWhile I use ART to treat and prevent injuries related to endurance sports, it’s ideal for treating all kinds of problems, whether you sit for hours on a bike or in an office chair: Headaches, back pain, neck tightness, carpal tunnel syndrome, shin splints, shoulder pain, sciatica, plantar fasciitis, knee problems, and tennis elbow, and infinite, less well-known injuries.

When you go to an ART practitioner, he or she uses your description and a series of physical assessments to diagnose your problem. Then, the practitioner selects a protocol consisting of the specific moves designed to treat and resolve that problem. Out of 500 available moves, you might only need between one and five moves.

ART focuses on the interactions between different areas of soft tissue that may not seem related at first. For example, your shoulder hurts when you rotate it, but “releasing” the muscle underneath your armpit (sub-scapular region) fixes the problem!

The unique aspect is that frequently, ART involves you moving your limb, head, or relevant body part in opposition to the practitioner’s touch. He or she tells you exactly what to do, and supports your movement, but you are an active participant. A standard visit takes 20 minutes or less.

A few years ago, Jurgen Zack (a German professional triathlete on his way to another Ironman World Championship) was unable to run for several weeks, due to an injury in his achilles heel. With one month to go before his championship race, he was out of commission. He was anti-massage until a fellow athlete urged him to see an ART specialist. The Doctor spent one session digging into Jurgen’s overdeveloped calf, and voila! Zack was back on the road.

Active Release TechniqueAnother gratifying success story: A high school football player injured his shoulder, and suddenly couldn’t lift his right arm at all. He had been to an orthopedic doctor, a neurologist, and a physical therapist, none of whom could figure out the problem.  However, after some very careful work, a couple of months later the guy was on the field in full force.

Three things you should know about ART:

  1. It can hurt. It doesn’t necessarily hurt, but if a muscle or tendon is injured, and you dig straight into the problem, there may be some pain. (Sound like life?) However, the pain is extremely brief with ART, usually a few seconds at the most (unlike with Rolfing, which can go on for minutes at a time). The benefits are so worth the cost!
  2. Watch out for inexperienced practitioners! Many chiropractors and physical therapists claim to be trained in ART. However, they may have “trained” by reading a book, or having treatment done on themselves, and then attempting to practice it on others.
  3. Make sure your practitioner is a certified ART practitioner

Dr. Jennifer Grozalis is an A.R.T. certified practitioner with 10 years experience in treating sports injuries and hard to treat cases. Call our office to set up an appointment.