Active Release Technique (ART) has become a popular soft tissue technique in the last 10 years. Most often used in the management of repetitive strain injuries, ART has shown to be very effective in breaking the injury cycle. Developed by Dr Mike Leahy in Colorado Springs, the ART brand has grown tremendously over the past two decades.
As the brand grows the number of practitioners that provide the technique grows with it. Today’s article will provide you with the tools to decide what ART practitioner is good for you? Here are some tips when choosing your ART provider:
1. ART rarely bruises a patient – Despite the myth ART rarely causes a patient to bruise. The premise behind ART is that tension is applied along the length of the tissue being treated. Inexperienced therapists can apply pressure to tissue, rather than tension. Pressure increases the likelihood of bruising. There are occasions where bruising may occur, however minimal. I think in five years of practice and thousands of treatments provided, I may have bruised 5 patients.
2. ART can be uncomfortable, but is rarely painful – Another myth is that you go into an ART treatment with a piece of wood in your mouth, and a bottle of vodka to control pain. Pain from the technique again is most often caused by compression. Patients may feel uncomfortable, or feel “a good hurt”, and should be able to tolerate the treatment. If the injury is acute the treatment may be more intense, but a well experienced practitioner can keep pain levels low. If you leave crying and bruised I would start second guessing who you’re seeing.
3. ART practitioners are regularly certified – There are over 5 different certifications within ART that a practitioner can study. Once certified, practitioners must re-certify on a yearly basis. I don’t see a problem if a therapist’s certification has expired two weeks ago. It does raise cause for concern when your therapist took one course 20 years ago, has not recertified and still claims they perform ART. These practitioners will not be up to date on the evolution of the technique. Certifications are also region specific. A therapist may be certified to perform ART on the lower limb, but not the upper limb. Make sure you know what specific courses they have taken to get the best treatment.
4. You can’t just say you do ART – Building off of my last point. I have had other therapists visit me to “learn” ART. I have patients come to me injured from people that claim they practice the technique. Generally if there is not a certificate on the practitioner’s wall they don’t practice it. These practitioners can end up hurting patients causing a more serious injury.
5. ART is specific – ART has hundreds of different protocols designed to treat specific things. ART practitioners have a skilled sense of touch to identify the specific tissues injured. There is a precise skilled method to their technique that is focused, slow and smooth. If you are visiting somewhere, where you are in and out in five minutes – think again!!
6. ART is not the only thing being done – ART is a tool used to address, primarily the soft tissue in the body. Although effective, ART is not the be all end all of therapy. A practitioner should provide a patient with a detailed assessment, treatment, exercise prescription and nutritional supplementation. In the end a patient centered, multi-functional rehabilitation schedule will lead to the highest success of all parties involved.