In the 1980s a young chiropractor named Dr. Michael Leahy was becoming more dissatisfied with traditional soft-tissue treatment methods, especially for professional and Olympic athletes who needed to get back to training and competition. He began developing the Active Release Techniques (ART) treatment system, which he eventually patented, and began training other healthcare professionals to utilize the system in their practices.
According to an official website, ART has trained and credentialed more than 20,000 professionals in this technique. Dr. Karyn Staples, PT, PhD, NCPT of ProHealth Physical Therapy and Pilates Studio in Peachtree City has received extensive training in ART.
Since Staples was introduced to ART in 1999, there has been more research on the fascial system of the body – the functional structure that allows all organs, muscles, bones and nerve fibers to operate in an integrated way.
“You have to know the anatomy of the structure you’re going to be working on – where it starts, where it ends, what action it does,” said Staples. “The basics of ART are that you bring that structure into a shortened position, apply some tension with the hands of the healthcare practitioner, and then have the patient then move through the range of motion of that structure to allow for improved mobility of the structure. ART techniques are specific protocols based on the structure you are working on.”
Staples was drawn to ART because it allowed her to utilize her anatomy knowledge from her physical therapy training and dive deep to understand the lines of the muscles and what is moving where in the body. This enables her to treat parts of the body structure that are creating friction and could increase inflammation.
“Some things can be really quick and easy. Someone’s shoulder is hurting and all of a sudden you do this movement and they’re like, ‘Oh wow, I can move and I don’t have pain.’” she said. “It isn’t necessarily the end all be all. This is one kind of a manual therapy technique to improve the quality of how the body is moving. From there, the person has to do appropriate exercises to maintain that whatever happened doesn’t return again in that way.”
Staples is the only physical therapist at ProHealth who is trained in ART, although she has been able to share a few techniques with coworkers.
One of her own recent patients, a female in her late 30s, was suffering from jaw and neck pain which were tension-related. Noting the tightness in that area and the restricted motion that resulted from it, Staples worked directly with those structures to improve the range of motion, starting in a prone position which was gravity-neutral. From there they moved to a seated position before ultimately a more gravity-resisted position, to take into account postural alignment.
By the end of treatment, the patient was no longer in pain and was directed to continue with a home exercise program. Breathing and relaxation techniques were also integrated to help avoid a return to the tension that was causing the problem.
A large part of the origin of ART was in the sports world, and many trained professionals continue to work regularly with professional athletes of all shapes and sizes in all of the major sports leagues, as well as those who are training for various Olympic events.
For those who are weekend athletes or just wanting to stay healthy and active, ART benefits employees and employers alike by improving productivity due to quick results that lead to improved movement, whether in a physically demanding job or sitting behind a desk. This also leads to improvements in the bottom line with lower healthcare costs for the employee and the employer alike.
ProHealth Physical Therapy and Pilates Studio is located at 1777 Georgian Park in Peachtree City. For more information or to book an appointment, phone 770-487-1931.