Professional education for soft tissue injuries (muscles, fascia, ligaments and nerves) has been generally ignored in the healing arts. The standard of care for soft tissue injuries has been rest, drugs, massage, ultra-sound, exercise, use of cold/heat packs with limited success. Knowledge of identifying how the tissues move in relation to one another was poor at best, until now.
Active Release Techniques® (ART®) is a highly specific method of dealing with fibrotic tissue adhesions that cause pain and restricts normal motion between soft tissue structures. Adhesions can develop between muscle groups or muscle and nerves. A few examples include back pain, neck pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, arm pain or numbness and sciatica. ART® releases the adhesions helping to restore normal movement between soft tissue structures, thereby reducing or eliminating the symptoms in the vast majority of cases.
ART® is a type of manual hands-on therapy that corrects muscular and soft tissue problems that are caused by adhesions. Soft tissues are muscles, nerves, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels and the connective tissue that surrounds or contains those soft tissues.
The ART® soft tissue management system is based on scientific evidence that muscles, nerves, blood vessels and connective tissues develop adhesions within, around and/or between them after acute or repetitive motion injuries.
Our bodies contain a special tissue known as fascia. This tissue connects each part of our internal structure to other parts of our body very much like a flexible skeleton, holding the parts together yet allowing motion. When this tissue is healthy, it is smooth and slippery, allowing soft tissue to move freely against the body part next to it. Imagine a piece of scotch tape, where the smooth side is healthy fascia, and the sticky side is scar tissue or unhealthy fascia. If you were to rub both sides of the tape along your skin and "feel" how it either slides freely, or sticks to the skin as an adhesion would "gluing" tissues together within your body. That pulling sensation from the sticky side is similar to what an adhesion would be. If the adhesion is between muscles there will be a loss of function of a joint, stiffness, and/or pain upon movement. If the adhesion is to a nerve and another structure, you may experience numbness, tingling, weakness, and/or pain with or without movement.
Adhesions cause altered function of muscles and joints resulting in a wide variety of symptoms that characterize the cumulative injury cycle. Cumulative injury is a series of injuries to the soft tissues of the body. It is helpful to understand that cumulative injury results from acute injury, repetitive motion injury, or a constant pressure or tension injury, all of which lead to what we term as the cumulative injury cycle. It is the existence of the cumulative injury cycle that separates this disorder from other injuries of the neuromusculoskeletal system.
The cumulative injury cycle is self-perpetuating, and as this downward spiral continues, the symptoms and syndromes typically worsen. These may include tendonitis, muscle pulls or stains, myofascitis, fibromyalgia, bursitis, trigger points, peripheral nerve entrapments, thoracic outlet syndrome, strength imbalances, poor flexibility, chronic muscle or joint pain and stiffness, chronic fatigue, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other conditions or symptoms.
The cumulative injury cycle can be started in three ways: acute injury, repetitive injury, and/or constant pressure or tension injury. Left uncorrected the injuries can lead to chronic inflammation, adhesion/fibrosis, weak and tense tissues, and decreased circulation to the tissues involved.
Our bodies are very adaptable. Our bodies warn us of damage with pain signals, and repair damaged areas. Very often, we think we are "better" after several days to several weeks and the pain has gone away. What has happened is that the body has healed the damaged area with scar tissue. You may not be aware of your "new" problem for weeks to years from the onset of the original injury depending on how much the area is stressed. You may recognize adhesions as a loss of function: decreased ranges of motion of a joint, weakness of an area, stiffness, soreness, pain upon exertion, or many of the symptoms that are associated with "getting older."
The goal of ART® treatment is to release adhesions from the layers of soft tissue and to improve your condition. Typically treatments may be uncomfortable at first as tissues are stretched. You may even feel a slight burning sensation as adhesions are released. These are all normal responses, however all procedures are performed within your tolerance for discomfort. There is rarely residual discomfort following treatment. Unfortunately there is no painless way to free adhesions, but everything is done within your comfort zone. On rare occasions bruising of the skin may occur. You may also be "sore" for up to 36 hours on average after treatment as if you had exercised hard. Most people immediately notice a "loose" feeling with better mobility of the affected area and a reduction of their symptoms.
ART® is not like a massage. Massage generally promotes relaxation and circulations. Neuro-muscular massage gets more specific, but it does not fix soft tissue adhesions or restore improper function as does ART®. ART® protocol is very specific for the correction of soft tissue adhesions.
ART® practitioners must have a detailed knowledge of anatomy and a sensitive touch to locate involved tissues. Most cases presented are chronic. Old sports injuries, chronic back and neck pain, repetitive motion injuries, failed back and neck surgeries, and carpal tunnel syndrome are but a few examples that are treated with reasonable success. Most acute injuries can be treated as well. The following is an example of how a fibrotic condition (adhesion) can occur from a repetitive motion injury. A simple "muscle knot" or a sustained muscle contraction will deprive an area of blood, oxygen and nutrients, setting the stage for inflammation, fibrosis, denervation super sensitivity, etc. ART® works directly with the fibrotic area. In the hands of a skilled ART® practitioner, the fibrotic lesion is located and removed or reduced. With restoration of normal tissue motion, pain is decreased or eliminated, joint motion improves, and normal or near normal activities can be resumed.
Intense hands-on training, a written examination and practical examination is required to be certified as an Active Release Techniques® practitioner.