Active release techniques for back pain is yet another of the many hands-on massage and manipulation therapies used to treat a variety of painful complaints in the body. A.R.T. is the brainchild of Dr. P. Michael Leahy, a chiropractor who claims to produce some quite remarkable results from his system of soft tissue massage therapy. A.R.T. is considered by practitioners to be unique in its applications, but this is common to virtually all forms of massage and manipulation therapies.
This commentary examines the use of active release therapy as a method of treating back and neck pain.
A.R.T. speculates that the majority of pain syndromes in the soft tissues result from overuse conditions and are easily treatable using hand-on massage therapy techniques applied to the muscles, ligaments, tendons, fascia and other tissues.
A.R.T. theory further speculates that the actual cause of symptoms in many patients is scar tissue formation in the soft tissues, thought to restrict mobility, enact pain and possibly cause nerve impingement issues throughout the affected region. Active treatment helps to soften and break up scar tissue and optimize the condition of soft tissues to better facilitate a condition of ideal health.
Active release is a registered trademark and the propagation of the system in training and certifying new practitioners and instructors seems to be one of the highest priorities of the governing organization.
Active release therapies can be learned by a variety of care providers, but seem to have enjoyed the most acceptance among massage therapists and chiropractors, since these are already hands-on professions. A.R.T. therapy is often added to other types of complementary modalities to provide a combined care approach to dorsalgia treatment.
I think massage and manipulation therapies have their uses as symptomatic modalities, but I rarely agree with the curative results claimed by any. In my own experience, most patients do not get better; they merely feel better for a short time frame after treatment. This is not a direct comment on A.R.T., in so much as a blanket statement which applies to virtually all massage and manipulation treatments. I do like the holistic nature of Active Release Techniques and also the intimacy of treatment is soothing for many patients who feel neglected and “swept under the rug” by traditional doctors.
The bottom line comes down to this: If you are a fan of massage and manipulation, you might just find something unique and delightful in A.R.T. treatment, and then again, you may not. If you are looking for a real cure for the underlying cause of back pain, you are unlikely to find it here (or anywhere in the complementary medical sector… statistical fact, not opinion.) Should you try A.R.T.? Maybe. You really have nothing to lose and if you can actually achieve a cure, then you will be happy you gave it a go.