What is A.R.T? – Dr. Leahy Pioneers Active Release Techniques®

The Canadian Press – DEC 31, 2002

The Active Release Techniques system was developed in 1984 by Dr. Michael Leahy, a Colorado chiropractor who became interested in treating soft tissue problems early in his practice.

“The typical methods we had just weren’t fast enough — ultrasound, electrical stimulation, (applying) hot and cold. The athletes I was treating needed something a lot quicker than that,”said Leahy, who was a college athlete and has a background in engineering.

“That led me right into soft tissue in sports and after that soft tissue (disorders) in the workplace and other areas,”Leahy said in an interview from Colorado Springs. Thinking like an engineer in terms of biomechanics, and force and function _ and combining that with his knowledge of anatomy, led him to come up with a way to help athletes. He also began applying the principles to treat people with carpal tunnel syndrome. If people can go back to work, he considers that a success, he said.

Over the years the number of professionals who have learned active ,release has risen to about 3,000. Chiropractors still make up the largest number of ART providers, about 65 per cent. Leahy said. But he adds the technique is beginning lo cross professional barriers.

Physiotherapists make up the second largest group, and a number of athletic trainer & have also become certified. Leahy said a few doctors have taken the classes to help them diagnose conditions.

Calgary neurologist Dr. Christopher White said he has not come across good-quality studies using control groups that determine scientifically whether the therapy is effective.

White notes active release therapy is not regulated. Therapists might say they do active release but not have the proper training, he said, adding that may be a concern to ART providers who have studied it extensively.

Edmonton chiropractor Dr. Christpher Komarnisky. a certified ART provider and instructor, said patients should check whether the person they go to has the proper credentials.

“They’ll have a certificate on the wall that says they’re either certified in spine, upper extremity’ or lower extremity. There’s also a level 3 .. . which is a specific course for biomechanics using active release,” he said.

“They are good for a year and then you’re supposed to re-credential and the purpose of that is to increase the skill of the practitioner.”

Sale embraces ART therapy

Soft-tissue treatment helps pro athletes and office workers By Julia Necheff / The Canadian Press – DEC 31, 2002

Athleticism, grace and skill. Figure skater Jamie Sale has it all, and then some.

But her pursuit of perfection includes not just countless hours of practising on the ice; it’s also the half-hour or so she spends in Dr. Allan Jeffels’s treatment room easing her aches and getting the knots out of her hardworking muscles so she can perform to her potential.

Jeffels is a practitioner of a patented form of soft-tissue therapy called Active Release Techniques, which Sale has embraced enthusiastically.

It’s not just Sale. Many high-profile athletes, including sprinter Donovan Bailey, have sworn by ART. Professional hockey players such as Jarome Iginla and Rob Niedermayer of the NHL’s Calgary Flames are using it. But Sale says active release therapy is not only for athletes – “it’s for people who are in discomfort every day” – adding that she has sent her mother and cousin for ART.

Those with repetitive strain injuries or tendinitis conditions such as tennis elbow and frozen shoulder have also reported relief after ART treatment. ART providers say they can use the therapy for a wide variety of conditions. If it involves soft tissue – muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia (the fibrous tissues that hold muscles together) – or trapped nerves, ART can treat it, proponents say.

The goal of ART is to relieve pain and dysfunction. The basic premise is that scar tissue builds up at an injury site, trapping nerves or preventing tendons, ligaments and muscles from working properly; it’s as if your muscles are Velcroed together when they should be moving smoothly across one another.

The practitioner finds the scar tissue and breaks up the adhesions by putting tension on it while moving the muscle through a full range of motion.

While she was training for competition Sale says she went for ART therapy twice a week or more. Now on the professional skating circuit, Sale and her pairs partner David Pelletier, who won gold medals at the Salt Lake City Olympics, squeeze in visits to Jeffels between their ice show tours. Sale says ART helps her prevent injuries.

“He’s enabling me to move the way I should be able to move,” she said during a recent treatment session with Jeffels, an Edmonton chiropractor. “When I’m on the ice I need to be flexible, I need to be agile . . . When we do some ART, I feel much looser – almost sometimes like I have a new body.”

The diminutive figure skater grimaces at some points during the treatment, which can involve some discomfort. But it brings relief and better movement, she said after Jeffels works on various muscles in her back, shoulders and neck.

“She lands on the right foot all the time. Consequently it’s under a lot of stress. She develops a lot of foot pain, heel pain because of it,” Jeffels says as he works on Sale’s feet. “She’s got new (skate) boots and it’s changed the way she holds her foot in the boot, too. I can tell.”

Bailey has credited his Montreal chiropractor, and ART treatments he received from him, with helping him win the gold medal in the 100 meters at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. When he tore a muscle just three weeks before, Bailey thought it was games over. But he was able to rehabilitate the injury in time.

NHL star Iginla has started ART for a hip flexor-groin injury that’s keeping him out of play, and Niedermayer, his teammate, uses it. “Dr. Dan has been working with a lot of the Flames for quite a few years,” Niedermayer said in a recent interview, referring to Calgary chiropractor and ART provider Dr. Daniel Migliaresi.

“You’re always a little skeptical at first but I think after, you see the results.”

Niedermayer said he had stiffness in the hip area that didn’t seem to get better, no matter how much stretching he did. After a couple of months of treatment, he noticed a big difference in his skating.

Less than 20 years old, ART is not well known in the medical community. Nor is there much independent scientific study to evaluate its effectiveness. Many of the reported benefits are anecdotal. Dr. Clare Westmacott, a general physician in Canmore, Alta., who heard about the technique about five years ago, said he refers patients for ART, maybe one or two a week.

Westmacott said he has seen good results in his patients with neck and shoulder problems, and repetitive strain. Surgery has been avoided in some cases.

“It’s actually a very good technique,” he said. “We really like it because we’re able to see not just relief, but actual curing occurring – and it can be done in a very natural way without using medications.

“We’re also seeing people going back to work, the same kind of work they did before the treatment.”

Dr. Chris White, a Calgary neurologist, has referred some patients to Migliaresi for ART. He said it appears to have helped some get relief from pain associated with soft-tissue and tendinitis problems.

But White said he has not come across good-quality studies using control groups that determine scientifically whether the therapy is effective. But all the evidence Sale needs is that it not only allows her body to move the way she wants it to, she also gets fast results. After three treatments, pain in a trouble spot will be gone. “As an athlete, that’s important. You want a quick fix.”