My Experience with ART: Part I

For years I’ve been interested in restorative and rehabilitative techniques. Whether it be something in the “do it yourself” category such as foam rolling, or something a bit more invasive like dry needling (a technique used by doctors of physical therapy to release tight muscles in spasm), I'm always interested in finding out what seems to “work” and what seems to be an expensive waste of time.

One of the rehab techniques that really sparked my curiousity was ART, or Active Release Technique. Was it a fancy style of massage? Was it chiropractic manipulation? I came to find that it was a style of treatment that involved locating scar tissue in the body that is suspected of causing soft tissue restriction or dysfunction, and using a combination of manual pressure and the patient’s own movement to break up the gunk in the body and restore the tissue to proper function.

As I read more about it and talked to several patients that have had ART before, the general consensus was overwhelmingly positive. I couldn’t resist anymore and got myself an appointment with Grove Spine & Sports Care.

The Assessment/Evaluation

I came in with no urgent concerns or problems, but I knew that I had some movement dysfunction of my own. My hips are fairly tight and I will get some lower back soreness from a long day of sitting, and my left hip will bother me if I over-do it with squatting movements. I was very curious to see what kind of condition the soft tissue in my lower back and hips were in.

Just as I suspected, there was something up with my left hip. My hip flexors are both super tight, but even more so on the left side. I’ve always felt that this is pulling my spine into a less-than-optimal hyperlordodic position.

My hip external rotators on my right side were also locked up, causing me to turn my right foot out more when I stand or sit relaxed.

But the fun didn’t end there. There was junky tissue in my adductors, spinal erectors, QL, and some scarred up ligamentous tissue in my lower back.

So I proceeded to have much of this knotted up nonsense “released” by the good Doctor. The “releasing” consisted of having deep pressure applied to the restricted area, and then moving my own body in a way that would stretch the tissue against the pressure. For example, for my hip flexors, I started in a side-lying position and deep manual pressure was applied to my psoas right next to my belly button. While the pressure was maintained I had to extend my hips by throwing my top leg back and reaching up toward my head with my top hand.

I was warned that it may cause some deep burning and even a painful sensation, but I thought it just felt awesome.  I was still smiling throughout the session, so I guess that puts me at a 0-1 according to this fullproof scale.

After getting my left hip flexor, right external rotator, and left adductor magnus released I got up off the table to walk around and feel out my freshly ironed out hips. I must say I was very impressed. I did a few bodyweight squats and could definitely feel the increased ease at which I dropped down to depth.

The initial evaluation and first ART session was enough to convince me that there is something magical happening here. Of course it would be naïve to assume that my experience will be the same as others, but for those of you who have some nagging soft tissue aches and pains I definitely recommend you try it out! Stay tuned for further experiences with my future ART sessions.