Picture being on the 8th hole with your friends playing one of your favorite desert courses on a warm sunny day, when all of a sudden you feel a sharp pain in your back from trying to sink an 18-foot putt.

Mike Butler

Mike Butler performs Active Release Technique on a client.

Holding your back and in obvious pain, you can’t move. You look back in time and realize that the frequency of this situation has increased. Your day of golf is ruined, and your pain becomes your top priority. So you call your doctor who prescribes pain medication and tells you to rest for a couple of days. Three days pass, you miss work, the pain is still there and everyday life becomes very frustrating. After a couple of weeks, the pain is resolved, you go back to work and all seems fine again. You then go to the range to hit some balls and after 15 minutes the pain returns and you can’t straighten your back.

You are now very concerned and frustrated. You make another appointment with your doctor; he takes x rays, gives you more medicine and says that nothing is showing up on the tests. “What do I do now?” you ask yourself.

Over 85% of Americans will experience several episodes of back pain during their lifetime. It is too common a problem in the United States today. There is a solution with growing popularity over the past 10 years called Active Release Technique or A.R.T.

Active Release is a patented state-of-the-art soft tissue movement system invented by Michael Leahy, DC, 25 years ago. A.R.T. treats problems involving muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves and fascia. Conditions like sciatica, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, rotator cuff problems, headaches and TMJ, (just to mention a few) can often be resolved quickly and permanently with A.R.T. All of these conditions have something in common — overused muscles.

Treatment begins with evaluating tissue texture, tightness and movement, by the use of the practitioner’s hands. Certified practitioners are educated on how to locate and feel different tissue textures, and to determine how a patient’s movement is affected and range of motion restricted, which may eventually lead to weakness and dysfunction.

The procedure for treating soft tissue injuries or nerve entrapments is to first locate from where the problem originates as this is sometimes not at the pain site, but from another area. After finding a restrictive muscle or structure, the practitioner applies tension to the tissue in the direction of the fibers and then stretches it, helping to breakdown scar tissue. This allows the tissue to begin healing by delivering oxygen and fresh blood to the area. When you have small muscle tears (strains), the matrix (foundation) of how new tissue lays down evenly is impeded. If you have an injury, scar tissue forms and the matrix tissue lays down unevenly. This must be addressed so that the new tissue can lay down evenly and adjacent structures don’t stick together creating a dysfunction.

Active Release Therapy is different from massage because the patient is actively involved in the therapy. If you want to get pampered and lay there, you should find a massage therapist; but if you want long-lasting results and relief from pain to continue being active in your life, then Active Release therapy may be the solution.

From a sports performance perspective, it’s a huge advantage to have someone onsite that can provide this service. Many professional sports teams, in the NFL, MLB, NHL, PGA, LPGA, and ATP, have A.R.T. practitioners on staff. As an example, a football player comes hobbling over to the sidelines grabbing at his neck. The practitioner identifies it as a “stinger” which feels like a paralysis to the player. Using the patented technique, the practitioner performs a few moves on the player’s neck, and within minutes he is back on the field.

If properly evaluated and treated, most conditions are permanently resolved within 6 visits. This doesn’t mean that another injury won’t occur unless you do the prescribed A.R.T. home program protocol faithfully. If billed under a soft tissue code, most insurance companies cover the procedure. If A.R.T. keeps you off the operating table, eliminates the need for prescription medications, and avoids the need for shots, it will save you time, money – and your health – in the long run.

Michael K. Butler is co-owner of Kinetix Health and Performance center in Palm Desert. He holds a state license as a physical therapist assistant, national certifications of distinction through the NSCA as a strength and conditioning coach, Poliquin International state coach and as a Full body Active Release Techniques Practitioner. He is the fitness expert on a sports radio talk show (1010 KXPS) three times a week. He can be reached at 760-200-1719 or at [email protected]

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