As runners, cyclists, parents, or simply as humans, we all have aches and pains. When I started running almost 5 years ago, I had no idea that my first year of running would be full of injuries. I had shin splints, IT Band pain, and even some lower back pain. I eventually got over several of the issues, but that doesn’t mean that I have remained injury free. In the last year, I have had Achilles tendonitis and Plantar Fasciitis. I went to the Slowtwitch Roadshow last year where they had a bunch of booths and speakers on various topics. The one that really grabbed my attention was the talk by Dr. Vince Hoffart of Hoffart Chiropractic, Inc. Dr. Hoffart specializes in ART® or Active Release Techniques® therapy and after listening to him talk about the benefits, I decided to meet up with him so we could do a blog piece about ART together. Here is a little history on ART® to start us off.
Dr. P. Michael Leahy was working with elite athletes over 30 years ago when he developed a new way to treat soft tissue disorders. He wanted to find a way to get these athletes back to peak performance as quickly as possible. Originally trained as an engineer in the Air force before becoming a chiropractor in 1984, he watched athletes perform and studied their movement. He combined what he knew about engineering with his chiropractic knowledge of the anatomy and biomechanics. Active Release Techniques® was born (1).
In 1988, Dr. Leahy’s colleagues convinced him to hold a seminar to teach his method of treatment and the response was overwhelming. Shortly thereafter, he began formalizing a training method for ART®. The method of Active Release Techniques® has been patented and over 10,000 ART® providers have been trained (1). What exactly is ART® though and how could it help you?
Most injuries that occur during exercise are due to overuse. Even in day-to-day activities can cause overuse injuries. These can be acute conditions like muscle pulls or tears, accumulations of small tears like micro-traumas, or not getting enough oxygen to the soft tissues (muscles, tendons, etc.). Active Release Techniques® is a patented massage technique that’s more than just going to a local massage therapist to work out knots. It’s a soft tissue/movement based system that treats muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, and nerves by using a combination of massage/pressure and movements to work out knots and other scar tissue (1).
Scar tissue is built up when you have trauma or injuries to a specific area. It prevents muscles to move as freely and can even make muscles become shorter and weaker. This can lead to a reduction in range of motion, loss of strength, and pain. You can even get numbness and tingling (1).
When you go in for an ART® session, you get a combination of an examination and treatment. The practitioner will use their hands to evaluate the texture, tightness, and movement of the muscles.
Once an issue is found, the practitioner will use a combination of precisely directed tension with very specific movements to treat the issue. There are over 500 specific moves that are a part of ART® and each person or injury may be treated by several different movements (1).
Here is a video that is about 5 minutes long but it does a good job of explaining what ART is and shows the process of an ART® treatment.
I went to Dr. Hoffart originally because I had pulled a muscle in my calf and had been having some Achilles Tendonitis for almost 4 months. I had tried massage and acupuncture with minimal success. I was training for my first 50k Ultra Trail Run and needed to get back to 100% as soon as possible. I met with Dr. Hoffart several times and each time he started with the evaluation of not only my lower leg, but all the way up to my hips. He checked for mobility and differences in strength. He would hold my leg and ask me to push out, then repeat and have me push in. We did this with both legs along with other similar tests. He was able to see that I had some loss of strength in my injured leg as well as a loss of mobility.
Dr. Hoffart was able to do several different ART® techniques and my mobility immediately increased. My pain lessened and within about 3 visits, my issue was basically gone. I had heard that ART® was extremely painful, but I really didn’t think it was that bad. One thing that is great about ART® is that the whole idea is that you get treated and back on your feet quickly. I have known a few Chiropractors to plan out a 6-12 month recovery plan (not saying that all Chiropractors are like that by any means).
Talking with Dr. Hoffart, when you get a massage and they are working on a knot, it is really painful. They are putting pressure directly on the knot, trying to work it out and break up scar tissue. ART® on the other hand is using the act of your muscles lengthening to help break up the knots as well as scar tissue. It is this process of your muscles moving to break down the knots that makes the pain less significant than if you were putting pressure directly on the knots. I know that these are not the technical terms that are used in the industry, but it is how I understand it and how I can best describe it to non-medical professionals (since I’m just an ordinary desk jockey). I honestly get lost when hearing about adhesions and different muscle groups that make up a larger muscle.
The bottom line is that Dr. Hoffartwas able to do what I was not able to do by just researching and doing exercises found on YouTube. He healed my Achilles/calf issues and I was able to complete my first ultra distance race almost pain free (I had muscle soreness, but that was it). I can’t thank Dr. Hoffartenough and could not have a stronger recommendation for him as a doctor. If you live in the greater Sacramento area, please let him help you out. If you are out of the area, find an ART® specialist in your area. They can help you get those injures healed so you can perform at your best.
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