What is Active Release Techniques (ART)?

ART is a patented, state-of-the-art soft tissue system that treats problems with muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nerves. Headaches, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, shin splints, shoulder pain, sciatica, plantar fascitis, knee problems, and tennis elbow are just a few of the many conditions that can be resolved quickly and permanently with ART. These conditions all have one important thing in common: they often result from injury to overused muscles.Developed by Colorado Springs chiropractor Dr. Mike Leahy. Active Release Techniques (ART) is proving to be highly successful in helping people recover from a variety of chronic pain conditions and athletic injuries. Dr. Leahy developed the specialized techniques after studying the properties of injured muscle during his internship in Los Angeles in the early 1980s. Drawing upon his background as an aeronautical engineer and test pilot, Dr. Leahy developed a unique perspective on soft tissue injuries. He believed that the same mechanism that governs the flight of an airplane also affects movement in the human body. He began to study how soft tissues healed and the relationships of tissues that moved against each other. This included muscle, tendons (hold muscle to bone), ligaments (hold bone to bone), fascia (the layer of connective tissue that surrounds muscles), and nerves. Combining this knowledge with the touch and sensitivity he learned at Chiropractic College, Leahy began to develop what is now known as Active Release Techniques.

Benefits of ART

Overused muscles and other soft tissues can be affected in three ways:• Acute injuries such as pulls, tears, and collisions• Accumulation of small tears (micro-trauma) caused by repetitive motions• Not getting enough oxygen (hypoxia) due to restriction of blood flowEach of these mechanisms of injury can cause your body to produce tough, dense scar tissue in the affected area. This scar tissue binds up and ties down tissues that need to move freely. As these “adhesions” build up, muscles become shorter and weaker, tension on tendons causes tendonitis, and nerves can become trapped. This can cause reduced range of motion, loss of strength and pain. If a nerve is trapped you may also feel numbness and tingling.

How is ART different from massage therapy ?

ART is uniquely different from deep tissue massage, trigger point therapy or myofascial release. It uses patented techniques that use specific tension applied to problem areas combined with precise body movements to release adhesions within and between tissue.Releasing these adhesions is the key to this technique. Imagine two pieces of steak stuck together with Velcro and you get a rough idea. If any discomfort is felt during the process, it’s usually described as, “a good hurt”. In the majority of cases, significant relief is felt after the first ART treatment.

Sale embraces ART therapy

Soft-tissue treatment helps pro athletes and office workers
By Julia Necheff / The Canadian Press – DEC 31, 2002

Athleticism, grace and skill. Figure skater Jamie Sale has it all, and then some. But her pursuit of perfection includes not just countless hours of practising on the ice; it’s also the half-hour or so she spends in Dr. Allan Jeffels’s treatment room easing her aches and getting the knots out of her hardworking muscles so she can perform to her potential.

Jeffels is a practitioner of a patented form of soft-tissue therapy called Active Release Techniques, which Sale has embraced enthusiastically. It’s not just Sale. Many high-profile athletes, including sprinter Donovan Bailey, have sworn by ART. Professional hockey players such as Jarome Iginla and Rob Niedermayer of the NHL’s Calgary Flames are using it. But Sale says active release therapy is not only for athletes – “it’s for people who are in discomfort every day” – adding that she has sent her mother and cousin for ART.

Those with repetitive strain injuries or tendinitis conditions such as tennis elbow and frozen shoulder have also reported relief after ART treatment. ART providers say they can use the therapy for a wide variety of conditions. If it involves soft tissue – muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia (the fibrous tissues that hold muscles together) – or trapped nerves, ART can treat it, proponents say.

The goal of ART is to relieve pain and dysfunction. The basic premise is that scar tissue builds up at an injury site, trapping nerves or preventing tendons, ligaments and muscles from working properly; it’s as if your muscles are Velcroed together when they should be moving smoothly across one another.

The practitioner finds the scar tissue and breaks up the adhesions by putting tension on it while moving the muscle through a full range of motion. While she was training for competition Sale says she went for ART therapy twice a week or more. Now on the professional skating circuit, Sale and her pairs partner David Pelletier, who won gold medals at the Salt Lake City Olympics, squeeze in visits to Jeffels between their ice show tours.
Sale says ART helps her prevent injuries.

“He’s enabling me to move the way I should be able to move,” she said during a recent treatment session with Jeffels, an Edmonton chiropractor. “When I’m on the ice I need to be flexible, I need to be agile . . . When we do some ART, I feel much looser – almost sometimes like I have a new body.”

The diminutive figure skater grimaces at some points during the treatment, which can involve some discomfort. But it brings relief and better movement, she said after Jeffels works on various muscles in her back, shoulders and neck.

“She lands on the right foot all the time. Consequently it’s under a lot of stress. She develops a lot of foot pain, heel pain because of it,” Jeffels says as he works on Sale’s feet. “She’s got new (skate) boots and it’s changed the way she holds her foot in the boot, too. I can tell.”

Bailey has credited his Montreal chiropractor, and ART treatments he received from him, with helping him win the gold medal in the 100 meters at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. When he tore a muscle just three weeks before, Bailey thought it was games over. But he was able to rehabilitate the injury in time.

NHL star Iginla has started ART for a hip flexor-groin injury that’s keeping him out of play, and Niedermayer, his teammate, uses it. “Dr. Dan has been working with a lot of the Flames for quite a few years,” Niedermayer said in a recent interview, referring to Calgary chiropractor and ART provider Dr. Daniel Migliaresi. “You’re always a little skeptical at first but I think after, you see the results.” Niedermayer said he had stiffness in the hip area that didn’t seem to get better, no matter how much stretching he did. After a couple of months of treatment, he noticed a big difference in his skating.

Less than 20 years old, ART is not well known in the medical community. Nor is there much independent scientific study to evaluate its effectiveness. Many of the reported benefits are anecdotal.

Dr. Clare Westmacott, a general physician in Canmore, Alta., who heard about the technique about five years ago, said he refers patients for ART, maybe one or two a week. Westmacott said he has seen good results in his patients with neck and shoulder problems, and repetitive strain. Surgery has been avoided in some cases. “It’s actually a very good technique,” he said. “We really like it because we’re able to see not just relief, but actual curing occurring – and it can be done in a very natural way without using medications. “We’re also seeing people going back to work, the same kind of work they did before the treatment.”

Dr. Chris White, a Calgary neurologist, has referred some patients to Migliaresi for ART. He said it appears to have helped some get relief from pain associated with soft-tissue and tendinitis problems. But White said he has not come across good-quality studies using control groups that determine scientifically whether the therapy is effective. But all the evidence Sale needs is that it not only allows her body to move the way she wants it to, she also gets fast results. After three treatments, pain in a trouble spot will be gone. “As an athlete, that’s important. You want a quick fix.”