Now for the good news! A new treatment known as ART (Active Release Technique)® is proving to be a very effective method to treat many back problems and get back pain sufferers doing their favorite activities again. Before we can understand how ART® effectively treats back pain, we must first understand how backs become injured.
When talking about the back, we are actually talking about the spinal column, which consists of a series of small bones called “vertebrae” stacked on top of one another. Each of these bones is connected to one another through a series of joints. These joints between each vertebrae allow the spine to bend which is important to our everyday movements. However, spine mobility comes at a cost because it makes the spine less stable. In fact, research has shown that by itself, without muscular or ligamentous support, the spine will buckle and collapse with as little as 20 pounds of pressure. Therefore to protect the spine, complex layers of muscles surround the spine to control movement and protect from injury. The deepest layers consist of very small muscles that attach into each individual vertebrae and control and protect each individual joint. The middle layers span across several joints and the outer layers consists of large, more powerful muscles that run the entire length of the spine. All of these muscles work together to prevent excessive motion and buckling of the spine. When each muscle group is adequately balanced in terms of strength, flexibility and co-ordination, the back is healthy.
How Injury Occurs
There are a variety of situations that can cause tightness, weakness and abnormal function of the back. For example, repetitive use with certain sports, jobs, poor posture, lack of use, lack of stretching, muscle imbalance, old injuries, all effect normal back function causing excessive strain on the joints and muscles of the back. Over time, this strain develops into micro-trauma. Micro-trauma is very small scale damage to muscles, tendons, joint capsules and ligaments in response to small levels of strain. Initially it is not painful, but is often a mild ache or tightness in the muscles. Even though it is small, this damage still needs to be repaired. The body responds to micro-trauma in a predictable way- by laying down small amounts of scar tissue to repair the area. Unfortunately, with time and continual micro-trauma, this scar tissue builds up and becomes what is called anadhesion. Adhesions, if left untreated, will lead to pain, tightness, stiffness, limited motion and decreased blood flow, all of which places more strain on the muscles, leading to more micro-trauma. This vicious cycle is known as the repetitive strain injury cycle.
How can Back Injuries Be Fixed?
A variety of treatments exist to treat back pain such as medications (anti-inflammatory, muscle relaxants), rest, head, ice, ultrasound, electrotherapy…the list goes on to sometimes even include surgery! Unfortunately many of these traditional techniques generally require a long period of time before they provide relief and in most cases only provide temporary relief. This is largely due to their failing to address the underlying muscle dysfunction and scar tissue that has developed in the muscles and soft tissues of the spine. These adhesions bind tissues together, restricting normal movement and interfering with the normal flexibility and contraction of the muscles in and around the spine. Passive therapies such as rest and ice, medication and ultrasound all focus on pain relief and do not address the muscle restrictions and dysfunction. Active approaches like exercises are often needed for full rehabilitation but alone do not address the underlying adhesions. In fact, without first addressing the scar tissue adhesions, the exercises are often less effective and slower to produce relief or recovery from pain.
Our Approach: ART®- A Better Solution
ART® stands for Active Release Techniques®. It is a new and highly successful hands- on therapy that addresses the scar tissue adhesions that build up on our muscles due to acute injury or repetitive strain. ART® is so successful at treating many types of back conditions because it
- 1) locates and breaks up restrictive scar tissue adhesions
- 2) reinstates normal tissue flexibility and movement and
- 3) more completely restores flexibility, balance and stability to the injured area and compensatory areas.