Have you ever thought about all the little pains us runners deal with day to day? From our feet, ankles, calves, hamstrings, and knees, to our hips, groin, back and more. Sometimes we wish there was just one magical cure for all of these problem areas. Active Release Therapy, the manipulation and movement of soft tissues, can actually help cure injuries of all these areas. Active release therapy (ART) is a hands-on massage technique used by doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists, and massage therapists (see Runners Feed Wellness Team) to locate and break up adhesions to help heal soft tissue injuries.
When you hurt a muscle or ligament, the body’s natural response is to heal the area by laying down scar tissue. However, this scar tissue can shorten the muscle’s range of motion, therefore causing pain or stiffness. While scar tissue or adhesions may heal the muscle temporarily, eventually it becomes a nuisance if it isn’t broken up. Once the soft tissue is damaged, injury can lead to altered biomechanics for compensation.
Active Release Techniques was founded by P. Michael Leahy, DC, CCSP. Leahy used his engineering and chiropractic skills, and combined them to treat triathlon injuries. Now fifteen years later, ART is common to treat injuries of all athletes and even every day injuries. ART is set apart from a normal sports massage because it engages the same muscles that are active when you go through the running motions. It is highly effective and often leads to immediate results that are faster than simple icing, massaging and resting alone. According to Dr. Alan Gilenson, Chiropractor of Suwannee Georgia, “We all have adhesions, and little by little they get worse and worse if they’re not broken up.” Since runners are constantly dealing with minor aches and pains, they often ignore the little pains to focus on the major ones. However, these minor aches eventually turn into bad adhesions in the soft tissue. Injury then occurs do to the accumulation of adhesions without treatment. To prevent this, Dr. Gilenson recommends getting active release treatment early on, or even having serious athletes make an ART appointment at least every six weeks to break up the adhesions before they get worse. Dr. Gilenson says ART has two advantages; the 500-plus individual motions that therapists are trained to perform, along with hands on accuracy. Another benefit is that ART works on the exact area of the problem, along with the surrounding muscle groups, therefore its more beneficial than a full body sports massage that may briefly touch on the injured area.
If you have a soft tissue injury that has been a nagging problem, or is continuing to get worse, consider finding a doctor or chiropractor certified in ART. Expect a typical session to last 10 to 15 minutes. Sessions are typically scheduled for twice a week, and foam rolling the injury is often encouraged between visits. In the last several years, ART has become increasingly popular and you can easily find a provider of active release treatment by looking on activerelease.com
About the Author: Amanda Winslow, is a junior at Florida State University, and a member of the Seminoles Cross Country and Track & Field teams. She enjoys long runs on the sandy trails of Tallahassee, as well as creative writing, photography and painting (see original artwork above).