Olympian Jeff Pain swears by active release therapy to get sore or injured muscles moving again, and to generally improve his athletic performance.
“There’s no better therapy out there,” says Pain, as chiropractor Conrad Tang uses his thumbs to work the quadriceps muscle of the 2006 silver medallist in skeleton.
So-called “manual release therapies” such as active release therapy, Graston technique and Kinesio Taping are all the rage -Jon Montgomery reportedly used active release therapy prior to his gold-medal win at the 2010 Olympics.
But there’s little scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of the therapies, says Tang, also a kinesiology researcher with the University of Calgary who is embarking on a study to determine if manual release therapies, at the cutting edge of injury treatment and performance enhancement for elite athletes, can help regular folks with kneecap pain.
He’s looking for 20 active people between the ages of 18 and 45 with patella pain femoral syndrome, a common problem that affects about 30 per cent of the population, to participate in a free, eight-week treatment program.
Pain and injuries often lead to muscles that shut down and become dormant, explains Tang. Weakness and pain further hampers a person’s ability to move. By manipulating and applying pressure, manual therapy techniques are said to “wake up” these muscles and improve mobility and range of motion.
“When a muscle is damaged, scar tissue forms and groups of muscles get stuck together. They’re supposed to freely move against one another. But when they get stuck, the muscles shorten and get stiff. This can produce weakness in and shrinking of the muscle,” he says of the downward spiral of injury.
“Patented techniques like Graston and active release are supposed to release the stickiness so that you have more movement and less stiffness and pain.”
Study participants will be treated with one of three therapies.
Graston is a technique where the therapist rubs a spoon-like stainless steel instrument over a patient’s muscles. With ART, the therapist uses his thumbs to stretch and apply pressure to muscles, tendons and ligaments while the patient moves the area being treated. Kinesio Taping involves using a new, flexible kind of therapeutic tape that can be worn for up to four days. It’s thought to work by lifting the skin and activating the muscles beneath.
As an athlete, Pain is curious about the study outcome. Because elite athletes train constantly at intense levels, they’re more prone to repetitive injuries, he says. He currently sees a therapist who uses all three techniques. “It keeps me pain-free, limber and performing well.”
New treatment for muscle pain focus of study
BY VALERIE BERENYI, CALGARY HERALD