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Active Release Technique for Athletes with Sports Injuries
As Chiropractors, we treat a lot of sports injuries, both acute and chronic. Acute injuries happen suddenly and unexpectedly, like a sprained ankle or a strained hamstring muscle, whereas chronic injuries build up over time, like stress fractures in the foot or tendinopathy at the elbow. The common theme we see with both types of injury is that athletes assume they just need to rest, allow the injury to recover, and get right back to their routine.
With acute injuries, we have found that this works temporarily, but most athletes find their way back to my treatment table with the same acute injury months, weeks, or even days later. With chronic injuries, particularly tendinopathy, rest does very little, and I see athletes after months of frustration with no improvement in their symptoms.
In both cases, the reason injuries and symptoms continue to plague these athletes is because rest does not address the root cause of these soft tissue injuries. Generally, the injured athlete will find themselves with tight muscles and tissues, reduced range of motion, and altered movement patterns leaving the injured area stuck in a state of tension, stress, and disrepair.
Thankfully, the Active Release Technique (ART) for athletes has emerged in the world of chiropractic care as a movement-based method to release muscle tension, promote soft tissue healing, and address the underlying cause of repetitive and chronic soft tissue injuries.
What Is Active Release Technique (ART)?
Pioneered by Dr. Lahey in his chiropractic practice, ART is a treatment method designed to address soft tissue disorders in athletes. ART practitioners combine manual compression to injured areas of muscles and tendons with active motion to break up adhesions, improve range of motion, and stimulate the soft tissue to begin the healing process. It is performed by licensed healthcare professionals including chiropractors, physical therapists, massage therapists, and athletic trainers who have been certified as an ART provider following comprehensive education and testing.
Benefits of ART
ART targets muscles, tendons, and ligaments to improve range of motion and promote healing. It does so by addressing the tension, tearing, and scar tissue formation associated with both acute and chronic injuries through targeted deep pressure and active movement; this not only reduces pain and improves healing, but it also allows for a return to normal, healthy movement patterns that were previously impossible due to pain and soft tissue restrictions.
ART is appropriate for a wide variety of soft tissue injuries including tendinopathy, muscle strains, ligament sprains, and running injuries including shin splints and issues that commonly plague the foot and ankle. While it will not heal a stress fracture or broken bone, ART can be a part of treating these conditions as well by reducing tension in surrounding tissues, leading to decreased stress on the affected areas.
Does It Hurt?
Much like many of our manual treatment approaches as a chiropractor, ART can hurt, but it should be the “good” kind of hurt, not the “bad” kind. Generally speaking, it should be no more than a 7/10 on a 0-10 pain scale, and you should not be holding your breath during the process. Moderate discomfort is good — it means we are hitting the right spots with appropriate pressure, but intense pain or discomfort means we should back off. Communication is key; we work together to find the right intensity for you.
Why Is It Important for Athletes?
Athletes work their bodies hard, and it shows in the injuries they accumulate. While ART is not the only tool in Team Elite’s toolbox, it is an important component we use to ensure we address the root cause of a given injury, so that you not only get some pain relief and improved motion in the short term, you see a full resolution and lower chance of recurrence in the long term.
Why ART Instead of Mobilization and Manipulation?
Joint mobilizations and manipulations address the joint itself, while ART focuses on surrounding soft tissue. The two approaches are not mutually exclusive and generally work very well in conjunction with one another. Treatment of sports injuries should always be a multimodal process where all factors involved are considered and addressed; ART is a part of the solution, but it is not the entire solution in and of itself.
If you are an athlete interested in the benefits of Chiropractic care, check out our article: Improving Athletic Performance: Benefits of Chiropractic Care and book consultation today.