Active Release Technique is a form of manual therapy that has gained a lot of popularity in recent years, and for good reason. Active Release Technique (we will call it ‘ART’ for short) is a comprehensive system that helps you move and function as well as you possibly can. Sounds...exciting! It is. But how does it work, and why does it work?
ART has been around for 30 years, but recently it has really started to gain traction among chiropractors, physiotherapists, massage therapists, and other health-care workers. Everyone is getting very enthusiastic about it, that’s for sure. ART is an extremely effective method for dealing with what we call ‘adhesions’ in medicine. So, what are adhesions and why are they bad? Why are they important?
Your body is made up of tons of different moving parts, and they all have to share a pretty small space. For this reason, those moving parts tend to stick together. Not too hard to imagine, right? Once this happens in a particular area of your body, you have yourself an adhesion. It’s also now easy to see why this could be a big problem. Things that are stuck together are harder to move, and you end up using a lot more energy than you should just to move around!
Don’t we all find everything takes enough energy already? When muscles, ligaments, and other structures get hung up on each other, not only does it mean you put more effort into your activities, but your body starts doing things you haven’t asked it to do. If your quadriceps are stuck, for instance, your knee may move in unwanted directions during your activities. This increases your risk of injury, and the quality of the information reaching your brain from those muscles will decline steadily. Your muscles and joints will also begin to adapt and move in all sorts of weird and stressful ways if these things go unchecked for long enough. This can negatively impact your sports performance, as well as put a dent in your general health. Sounds a bit scary so far...but wait. Good news is coming.
Adhesions occur all the time and for different reasons, but movement is the key (as cliche as that sounds). This is where ART really shines.
So, if things are stuck together, what should we do? Get in there and move them around, of course. And that, right there, is the whole concept of ART. No need to over think it. But how does a therapist actually do this? The short answer is: manually, somewhat similar to massage actually.
An ART provider knows exactly how to get you moving normally again. This is accomplished by understanding where different structures are, and how they’re supposed to move. The therapist then works a little bit of manual magic by prying the structures apart; using skillful directional touch and deliberate, methodical motions. Often times the client can get involved by moving a part of their body while this is happening, adding a neat interactive element. ART works by either assisting or restricting parts of your body as they move in the direction they are supposed to. This has the effect of separating structures from one another.
ART is a simple solution for a very common problem. All sorts of people can benefit from it, and for a wide variety of different reasons. In reality, the list of health issues that ART can treat is a bit too long to list in full...and it includes things that you would not expect. Some people are surprised when they hear that ART can help with things like swelling, circulatory problems, numbness or tingling, migraine headaches, shooting pains (such as with sciatica), and arthritis. People always remark with surprise when they realize how much it helps, since they don’t expect it to help so much!
You must see it to believe it, though. Believe it you will, if you care to witness it for yourself...