New Therapeutic Techniques in Treatment
Russell Gunner, C.A.T. (C)
For years, whenever someone injured their muscles they would usually ice and rest for a few weeks while praying to the hockey gods it would soon heal. This works over a period of time, but there are two new ways to try and speed up this process, they are called Soft Tissue Release and Active Release Techniques. They are relatively new terms which have just come into form in the last 10 years. Their therapeutic popularity is growing daily as hundreds of people are finding extremely quick results and returning to their sport quicker.
When a muscle, tendon or ligament is injured, it will shorten or shrink due to the injury. After a while, we would then try to strengthen it with exercises. The problem however is that we are trying to strengthen it in that post-injury shortened position. Some stretches may help, but they usually do not get to the root of the problem. This is where Soft Tissue Release (STR) comes in. The basic method is to start with a muscle relaxed and held in a shortened position by moving the associated joint (picture 1). Deep focused pressure should be applied directly to the muscle fibers to fix them in position. The muscle is then stretched passively away from this fixed point by moving the joint (picture 2). As the stretch takes place, the pressure point can be drawn a couple of inches in the opposite direction without reducing pressure, which achieves an even greater stretch. Therefore you are trying to regain the full length of the muscle from when it was injured. This will help reduce the tightness and pain associated with these types of injuries, and therefore return you to the ice that much quicker.
STR can be used for virtually any muscle, tendon or ligament in the body. It can be used in early stages of injury, with varying pressure from the hands or thumbs. STR is also extremely effective with old chronic injuries (i.e. Achilles tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, etc).
Active Release Techniques (ART) is also a simple hands-on technique that specifically finds and releases areas of scar tissue and adhesion (tears in the muscle) thereby getting rid of pain, numbness, loss of mobility and weakness in muscular joints.
Scar tissue is the body?s quick fix solution to repair strains to muscles, tendons, ligaments or even nerves. It is like glue in that it holds the torn fibers together as they heal. However, sometimes the process goes overboard. When there is not enough time to heal before the tissue is being used again, the scar tissue then starts to adhere to other healthy tissues. The result is pain, numbness, stiffness and weakness. An entire change in the body?s biomechanics occurs. ART will also use the same premise as STR in working the injured muscle from a shortened to lengthened position, while trying to reduce the scar tissue formation.
STR and ART may sound very familiar but there are some slight differences between the two techniques. STR works more within the muscle to reduce the scar tissue, while ART works more between the muscles. For example, there are four muscles which make up the quadriceps (top of thigh). When they are injured and scar tissue forms, the muscles may adhere to each other, thereby causing a lack of strength and function. ART tries to reduce that scar tissue between the muscles to return the normal function and strength.
Athletic, Physio and Massage Therapists will usually take the STR courses, while Chiropractors have been focusing more on ART. To find out if your therapist or chiropractor is certified in these particular techniques, just ask them. On the ART website (www.activerelease.com) they will list people who have taken the courses, however not everyone is listed. There is a fee to be listed on the site, so it may not be exactly accurate as some do not pay the fee. The STR site (www.softtissuerelease.com) does not list its course participants.