There are a multitude of preventative and proactive massage techniques to keep athletes up and running when pain starts to crop up. Myofascial release, sport massage therapy and ART are just a few varieties we have to choose from. ART is a buzzword many people have heard about and some people swear by. But what exactly is it? And how does one stand to benefit from this sort of ‘active massage’?
Active release technique is a soft tissue treatment intended for individuals and athletes alike. It’s a soft tissue system/movement massage technique that treats problems with muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nerves. ART was developed and patented by P. Michael Leahy, DC, CCSP and is offered all across the U.S. Everything from headaches to back pain to carpal tunnel syndrome to shin splints can not only be treated, but cured with ART, at least according to P. Michael Leahy.
The primary issue at hand when considering ART is treating an over-use condition. Over-used muscles (and soft tissue) are the result of several things. They might start as an acute condition; a pull or tear, an accumulation of many small tears, or might be the result of muscles not getting enough oxygen. When an over-use injury starts to manifest, tough, dense scar tissue tends to develop in the affected area. Healthy soft tissue starts to move less freely, muscles can ‘shorten’ and/or become weaker, and your natural range of motion starts to decline. Not to mention, pain! Most over-use injuries come with a considerable amount of pain.
ART has the primary goal of restoring smooth movement back to the soft tissue. Additionally, it seeks to release any trapped nerves or blood vessels. An ART treatment consists of a practitioner using their hands to evaluate the texture, tightness and mobility of the soft tissue in an affected area. Then, using their own hand pressure, they work to remove/break-up the fibrous adhesions with stretching motions. There are several levels of ART. The last level includes movement by the patient to the affected tissue while the practitioner applies tension. This piece of the puzzle is seen as very positive. People that take their own vested interest in recovery and actually ‘participate’ are believed to have better outcomes.
People that commonly administer ART include chiropractors, physical therapists, massage therapists, certified athletic trainers, and some medical doctors. Professional athletes, Olympians and exercise enthusiasts have looked towards ART as a means of staying healthy, competitive and most importantly: injury free! There have not been a lot of studies done or with a big enough sample group, but it’s worth investigating if you are interested. While ART is not appropriate for blunt trauma or active inflammation; there are no serious contraindications for its use. So, check it out!