One of the most desired and effective soft tissue treatments we utilize at Clarke Chiropractic and Wellness is that of active release therapy or ART. My Crossfitters swear by this form of therapy and we normally implement it to some degree or another on every patient.
So what is it?
What we are talking about here is a soft tissue technique whereby the practitioner applies pressure in a specific direction to a specific area of an involved muscle or ligament while the patient then moves through a specific range of motion. You may note by my use of the 3 “specifics” that proper application of this technique requires a thorough knowledge and understanding of human anatomy and the mechanics of all individual muscles.
It goes way beyond simply massaging a painful area, and includes identifying and addressing all other structures involved with the problematic area.
For example, one of the most common problem areas most athletes come in for is the shoulder, and it’s usually due to anterior or front side shoulder pain. Rather than directing all treatment at the spot of pain manifestation, the entire shoulder complex is addressed, sometimes including up to 10 separate muscles. The shoulder complex, like many joint complexes in the body is just that, complex; and addressing all of the muscles that contribute to its function is key to not only alleviate discomfort, but to ensure the issue doesn’t resurface.
How does it work?
By taking a specific contact on a muscle or ligament, the practitioner anchors that tissue in place. Then, by having the patient move through a precise motion (usually taking the tissue from a shortened or contracted position to an elongated or extended position) tension is created at the site of the practitioners contact.
Benefits to this include breaking up adhesions or scar tissue build up that may be causing discomfort or limiting full range of motion. Having pain is one thing and is usually the reason people come visit us in the first place, so addressing it is always a priority.
But restricted range of motion due to chronically shortened or tight muscles can be the underlying issue behind a multitude of issues, including pain.
Muscles that are constantly tight, contracted or constantly working means they tend to build up lactic acid which causes the perception of pain. This can also lead to compensatory postural changes and movement patterns in order to continue to function despite the limited mobility. This can also lead to accelerated degeneration or early arthritis due to suboptimal posture and movements.
Reduced range of motion also leads to a reduction of blood and waste removal from the area. You see, the heart pumps blood to our structures but the body relies on gravity; more so, movement to return that deoxygenated blood to the heart. Without proper movement you now open the door for more swelling which can than place pressure on surrounding tissues, causing more problems.
You also need full range of motion to rid yourself of inflammation. Just as the veins rely on movement to bring blood back to the heart, the lymphatic system (your waste removal system) relies on movement to pump all the nasty, pain- provoking, inflammatory mediators out of dodge.
Another variation of ART we implement is that which incorporates something referred to as “nerve flossing.” That’s right. It’s not just for your teeth. Many times, nerves and other soft tissue can become “stuck” or irritated by adhesions or simply by a tight muscle.
The term “flossing” comes into play because we essentially pin the area where the nerve is presumed “stuck” and then have the patient move in a way that allows the nerve to slide back and forth as the fluoride-free floss does between your teeth. This method can be quite advantageous for people experiencing a variety of symptoms including carpal tunnel symptoms, sciatic complaints, neck, shoulder, and elbow pain.
These are just some of the benefits of properly applied ART. We could fill pages and pages with a broader explanation and other benefits. Feel free to research on your own or give us a call if you have any questions.
As with all treatments, this particular technique serves as a worthy adjunct to the total package of neurologically based chiropractic care and nutrition. As described in the previous paragraphs, ART can be part of a perfect marriage of healthcare delivery in finding a way to breakthrough to those stubborn aches and pain.
If you or someone you know has been unnecessarily dealing with pain and have tried other methods with limited success, I invite you to call us and try a fresh approach to natural and holistic healthcare.
When you’re ready, I’m here to help.