As I write this article I am sitting at the airport at 5.53 am about to board a plane to Dublin to do the Active Release Technique (ART) Upper Extremity course. So what could possibly be so valuable to get me out of bed at 4am on a Thursday morning to do a course 4 day course that I have actually attended 3 times in the last 6 years?
Well, one of the big motivators is that ART is highly regulated and to be on the register one has to attend at least one course a year. There are 5 different modules which cover the entire body. The other, more important factor is that ART is the “Gold Standard” soft tissue technique used regularly by the best professional athletes in the world. Almost every professional team in USA and Canada have an ART provider on their books. This includes NFL, NHL, and the NBA which make up some of the wealthiest sports organisations in the world. The most cutting edge sports science taking place in these arenas and they were the early adopters to use ART. ART is now spreading to Europe.
So how does this benefit you?
Well, soft tissue injury (muscles, ligaments, tendons and fascia) is one of the main causes of acute and chronic pain. This includes RSI (e.g. tendonitis), trauma (crush or tear) and insidious aches and pains (gradual onset without a specific cause). The key to the discomfort felt in these areas is a lack of circulation. A lack of circulation causes a decrease in nutrient delivery and toxin removal. This irritates the sensory nerves and they fire pain signals to the brain. (See Cumulative Injury Diagram.)
Soft tissue work eases the tension in the injured area. This decreases swelling and normalises the blood flow while allowing nutrients to be delivered and waste to be removed from the effected area.
Why does ART stand out when compared to other soft tissue techniques?
ART is different to regular massage because it uses the movement of the patient to shorten and lengthen the muscle through its range of motion while the provider applies specific tension to the tissues at the exact depth of the injury. Hence ART works between the fibres (separating them), while standard soft tissue work, which doesn’t use movement, squashes them together.
By working along the plane of the injured structures the movement that is performed pulls the adhesions into contact with the ART provider’s thumb / fingers, actively breaking the adhesions allowing not only the injured soft tissue, but also and the surrounding muscles to glide and slide past each other with less friction and deformation.
The result is rapid improvement in function and breaking the Cumulative Injury Cycle.