by David Merson, DPT, ATC
Over the past 2 years, I was fortunate enough to take Active Release Technique (ART) courses. The specific techniques and treatment strategies taught in these courses have helped to transform my sports medicine treatment approach for the better. I found that incorporating ART has allowed me to achieve quicker results for pain reduction and meeting of functional goals.
ART providers are certified through a hands-on certification course. Numerous protocols are taught through video, instructor demonstration, hands on practice, and immediate feedback. Finally, a practical assessment is required at the end of the course in order to receive the certification.
Active Release focuses on reducing tissue adhesion and improving circulation in an effort to help the specific tissue heal. It also reduces muscle tightness as oftentimes reduced muscle length can cause muscles to be weakened and ineffective. In turn, abnormal muscle function can cause alignment deviations and pain in other regions of the body. Through this treatment approach, the soft tissue in question will be allowed to function as it was designed to.
With consideration of the Active Release Techniques, my treatment approach follows these basic steps: (this is not a one-size-fits-all approach, but rather a basic framework):
- History: Where does the patient feel pain and how much? What activities does (s)he have difficulty performing?
- Function: I will ask the patient to demonstrate the difficult task or activity. For example, if kicking a soccer ball causes pain, I will ask him or her to mimic this motion in an attempt to gain a better understanding of the quality of movement.
- Physical Therapy Exam: I will then perform an examination which may include: palpation (tenderness), range of motion, flexibility, strength, and any other special orthopedic tests.
- Treatment=Assessment: Performing the ART allows me as a clinician to examine the fascia (muscle, tendon, ligament, nerve soft tissue). If adhesions or other abnormalities are found, the specific structure will be addressed through ART.
- Additional Techniques: My treatment does not stop there – I will include any modalities, joint mobilizations, instrument-assisted soft tissue techniques, patient education, TherEx/corrective exercise, and/or functional training.
All cases are treated on a highly individual basis. I find that I achieve the best results when I remain open to any and all diagnosis/biomechanical causes. I regularly explain this to my patients to reassure them that I will not rest until an ideal solution is found for their case.
Bottom Line: The manual therapy approach via ART is a very effective treatment approach as observed by my personal patient care results. I am excited to continue to develop and refine my ART skills through continuation of the ART courses. I hope that you as a client or a colleague find this type of treatment one that you may be interested in.
Please visit the ART website for more detailed information: www.activerelease.com.
Dr. Merson is a Physical Therapist at Boston Sports Medicine
Information for this blog was taken in part from the ART provider manual and from the key points covered during the ART courses