Active Release Technique
Dr. Smith uses Active Release Technique at his office in the Noe Valley neighborhood of San Francisco along with other myofascial release techniques to address old injuries and accumulated damage in the fascia. Chronic pain is often due to such fascial adhesions.
“This is the gospel of Rolfing: when the body gets working appropriately, the forces of gravity can flow through. Then, spontaneously, the body heals itself.”
~Ida P. Rolf, Ph D.
What is the Myofascial System?
Fascia is defined as a band or sheet of connective tissue, primarily collagen, beneath the skin that attaches, stabilizes, encloses, and separates muscles and other internal organs. What an uninspired string of words!
The fascial system really is the glue that holds the body together. It is an all-encompassing system that surrounds and invests all of our tissues. That means that a single system ties our muscles, bones, blood vessels, organs and nerves together.
“Stress” produces tension in the fascia. Such stress can be physical, psychological, environmental, chemical, etc. Tension in one area of the body can an often does influence other structures. Sometimes the relationship is indirect, far from obvious, and at a distance.
For centuries Eastern medicine has treated innumerable ailments by inserting needles into distant points. The general idea is to open the flow of energy through channels connecting the body or “meridians.” Western Medicine has recently “discovered” a system of connective tissue that binds and connects disparate parts of the body, aka fascia.
It seem that we are finally all starting to be on the same page in terms of describing distant physical factors that affect our health.
Myofascial Therapies in General
People love to innovate and stick their names on things. Numerous types of myofascial release techniques have emerged since the 1970’s. Such techniques include Rolfing, Active Release Technique, Passive Release Techniques, Direct techniques, Indirect techniques, foam rolling, skin rolling etc. etc. They all basically do the same thing. They relieve stress and tension in the fascia.
The benefits of such work are wide and varying depending on the source. Decreased pain and increased flexibility are the most named benefits. Others include improved immune function, decreased anxiety, decreased fatigue, and improved circulation.
Research in this area, as in most soft tissue methods, is sparse but beginning to accumulate. Anecdotal claims abound, but we all know what that is worth.
Myofascial Release techniques are safe, and many who suffer from either acute or chronic pain find them effective. Dr. Smith uses such techniques in almost every treatment and is a big proponent.
Active Release Technique
Active Release Technique or ART is considered by many to be the gold standard of soft tissue treatment for sports injuries. Injured muscles, ligament, fascia, tendons and nerves all respond extremely well with Active Release Technique treatment. What separates ART treatment from conventional massage or muscle work, is the precise directed tension and the very specific movement to ensure the smooth movement of tissue, the directed breaking up of scar tissue and the ability restore function with minimal treatment time. There are over 500 protocols for treating every muscle, tendon, ligament, fascia and nerve in the body. Active Release Technique is so specific and powerful that it is the only soft tissue therapy that is patented.
What is Active Release Technique?
With Active Release Technique, the whole structure (of muscle, tendon, ligament, nerve or fascia) can be treated instead of a particular section. It is the active motion, directed pressure, and specificity of treament of the muscle that allows the practitioner to break up the adhesions. But what is an “adhesion” anyway? An adhesion is fibrous tissue that develops from a small tear in the muscle, tendon or ligament. Some people may call this “scar tissue” as well. How does it get there in the first place?
An adhesion can develop 3 ways:
- Acute injury (trauma)
- Overuse (repetitive motion injury)
- Constant pressure/tension for an extended periods (poor posture)
Why Get Active Release Technique?
The adhesion, or scar tissue, should be reduced for many reasons. Adhesions limit blood flow to the structure, shorten the muscle and decreases the function of the structure. This can cause pain, weakness and sometimes numbness if the adhesion is putting pressure on a nerve.
The soft tissue changes that occur following an injury are:
Inflammation (occurs in the first 24-72 hours)
Stringy muscles lesions (2 days-2 weeks)
Lumpy tissue, palpable adhesions (2 weeks-3months)
Leathery tissue, changes slowly and is more chronic (3 months and beyond)
Each treatment only takes a few passes over the structure, and accomplishes greater results in a shorter amount of time than other soft tissue therapies. Active Release Technique is extremely effective when it comes to treating soft tissue conditions whether it be athletic injuries such as shin splints, tight calf muscles and IT Band problems or work-induced pain like carpal tunnel or shoulder and neck tension .