Most of my friends thought that adding Active Release Techniques to our services was crazy. For one it was developed by Chiropractors...who are not typically as comfortable with soft tissue dysfunction as massage therapists. Fortunately for my clients, they have benefited from my lack of attention to 'background noise.'
When looking at Active Release Techniques (ART) treatment I was immediately drawn to the philosophy - and the ability to sufficiently define and 'diagnose' soft tissue dysfunction. Active Release is a hands-on, touch based and case management process that allows a practitioner to treat soft tissue injuries and provide preventative care. The soft tissue that I deal with primarily refers to muscles, tendons and/or ligaments, fascia and nerves. The specific injuries that it can be addressed through these treatments include repetitive strains, adhesions, tissue hypoxia and/or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), and finally joint dysfunctions.
ART was initially developed like other forms of Myofascial Release - in fact that was one of the original names. However, the technique has evolved and been redefined due to it's inclusion of peripheral nerve entrapment, and a lot of 'resistant muscular issues' can be treated more effectively when including nerves in the manual treatments.
Although ART gained attention as part of the Ironman Triathalon treatment process for Hawaii athletes (1995) it is now a fundamental treatment process for the preparation for all Ironman events throughout the world, as well as other professional and collegiate sports competitions. Stanford University is one of the current organizations that uses it for all Athletes during season.
Additional applications for ART in work-place injuries started even earlier (1990). Today ART is approved by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Agency) as an efficient treatment for preventative care for repetitive motion injuries, and cumulative trauma disorder (CTD) throughout the United States.
Active Release appointments are different at four specific levels:
1) tissue position without tension, passive patient
2) tissue position with tension, passive patient
3) tissue lengthened after contact, passive patient
4) tissue lengthened after contact, passive patient.
Like most massage it is most effective with correct anatomy and kinesiology of the muscles treated. Appointments tend to be shorter (20 min on average), as there are only 3-5 passes required to affect change on the muscle. Over a week there can be as many as 3 appointments, which is strictly based on the tolerance of the patient. Benefits can be seen immediately.
Finally, the use and application of ART as part of training and recovery cycles is remarkable. Better posture and support along with movement retraining and corrective exercise instruction can bring great dividends. Learning to relax musculature after and between repetitions is key to reducing the total insult (breakdown) of issues. Correct movement and postural alignment is fundamental to reducing the re-occurrence of lesions and soft tissue adhesion.
So...now you know the secret, it integrates massage, corrective exercise techniques (PT) and postural alignment in all treatments without creating the core change to the proprioception of the body (ie. body awareness - where Awareness of the body and its relationship with the surrounding environment is mediated by sensation) created by deep tissue massage.