Active release technique (ART)

What to do When You’ve Tried Everything and Still have Pain

Everyone gets a few aches and pains. Sometimes you can’t sit in one position for very long without feeling stiffness and/or sensations when you get up. Or maybe you can’t pull your shoulder all the way back like you used to. Of course, there’s the lower back pain that almost all of us endure. The Canadian Chiropractic Association says that up to 85% of working people can expect to experience lower back pain at some point in their lives.

Fortunately, when those aches and pains become more than a nuisance, there are many options for relief even beyond pharmaceutical treatments. A number of physical and natural treatments, including massage therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic treatments, even naturopathic medicine, will not only relieve the symptoms of the pain, they can also correct the underlying causes.

But what happens if you’ve tried everything and you still can’t quite find complete pain relief? Not only are you still suffering from the pain that forced you to seek treatment in the first place, but now you’re dealing with the emotional stress and frustration that comes from not knowing what’s wrong and/or if you’ll ever live pain-free again.

Active Relief Techniques & Scar Tissue

There are many reasons why chronic pain might not respond to one or more types of treatment. One of the more common reasons has to do with the body’s response to tears in its tissue, which is what we call scarring.

When you hear the term ‘scar tissue’ you probably think of that mark on your chin from when you fell off your bike as a kid. Or maybe you think about the cosmetic scars made to make the villains in horror movies look a little scarier (more ‘scars’ means the character is ‘scarier’!).

In any case, the scar tissue that forms after more serious cuts and breaks in your skin helps to replace the broken skin and speed-up the healing process. So scarring is a good thing.

The surface of the skin isn’t the only place that scarring takes place in your body. It can occur on just about any body tissue, internal or external. Your body’s soft tissue, including your muscles and ligaments, develop scar tissue after they’ve been over-extended and suffered injury or trauma, or when they’re subjected to repetitive strains, like working at a desk for extended periods or playing tennis regularly.

All of those situations will cause scar tissue to form in the affected muscles and ligaments. In the case of injury and trauma, they cause small tears in the tissue, similar to a cut on your skin, and scar tissue will form around those tears. In repetitive strains, the affected tissue can be robbed of oxygen due to the constant tightness of the muscles. That results in a condition called Hypoxia, which can also cause scarring.

As more and more scar tissue builds up in a particular area, it can inadvertently affect the proper movement of the muscles and ligaments, which can reduce the flexibility of muscles and joints. Eventually the tissue build-up and lack of flexibility can entrap nerve endings and result in chronic pain issues like carpel tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow.

It wasn’t until a few decades ago when Dr. Michael Leahy developed Active Release Techniques (ART), that a treatment modality existed specifically to relieve chronic pain caused as a result of the build-up of scar tissue.

ART’s techniques are all focused on ‘unjamming’ the buildup of scar tissue to return full motion to muscles, ligaments and joints. ART therapists are trained to locate the specific points on muscles, tendons, fascia, ligaments and nerves where scar tissue adhesions exist. The therapist then has the patient put the muscle through its complete range of motion while the therapist manipulates the scar tissue to improve the range of motion.

If you have chronic pain that hasn’t responded well to other treatment, look into ART. If you have any questions about ART, we have trained ART therapists ready to answer them here at Active Health Centre.

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