Another great Dr. Brady article:
Overcoming Scar Tissue Based Injuries: Getting Better, Faster with ART
By: Dr. William F. Brady, D.C.
It can be downright ugly. Walk into any gym that specializes in strength and conditioning, powerlifting, strongman, or even martial arts, and you’ll run across a number of the athletes who have an injury that is making their training difficult and painful, often putting the freeze on their hard earned progress. Most of us have experienced hamstring pulls that return when we train hard or shoulder pulls that prevent us from doing certain lifts, but all too often these injuries become chronic, nagging training partners that repeatedly remind us of our weak spots.
Conventional wisdom tells us to stretch, ice, and rest for a while and things will be fine. That’s great advice, but what do you do when that doesn’t really solve the problem?
Enter Dr. Michael Leahy, a military test pilot turned chiropractor. He has developed Active Release Techniques (ART), a system of locating and treating areas of scar tissue. Since many injuries entail some form of scar tissue, this procedure is revolutionizing the way doctors look at and treat athletic injuries.
‘Muscle pull’, ‘strain’ and ‘tear’ are all terms used to describe damaged muscle or tendon. When a tear occurs, there is a gap between the torn ends. The body creates scar tissue to fill this gap and “glue” the torn parts together. This is why rest and ice are critical first aid in the beginning. Rest allows the scar tissue to form properly with out re-tearing, and ice reduces the inflammation and swelling so the torn parts are in close proximity and heal faster. Problems arise when this advice is not followed or when an injury is so severe and too much scar tissue has built up.
Think of scar tissue as glue; it will not only limit the ability of the affected muscle to fully lengthen but it will also prevent complete muscular contraction, which ultimately limits strength and flexibility. Not a good place for any athlete to be.
Besides damaged tendons, scar tissue can also “glue” muscles together. Muscles lie in layers throughout the body and must be able to slide across each other for efficient, pain free motion. If scar tissue has bound the muscles together, the necessary gliding motion is prevented. This too will limit strength, cause an abrupt limit of motion, and over time, damage joints. Nerves can also get glued to muscles by scar tissue, as well. Trapped nerves cause symptoms of numbness, tingling and burning, and can occur virtually anywhere in the body.
How do you know if you may be suffering from scar tissue damage and how can you treat it? You probably have scar tissue if: (1). You have strained a muscle or had a tear in the past, especially if the area continues to cause you symptoms. (2). You have tightness or pain early in the workout that improves with warm up. Scar tissue will behave kind of like taffy; when it is cold it is not flexible but after a warm-up it is able to stretch. (3). You have a limited range of motion that does not consistently improve with stretching.
Active Release Techniques is the treatment of choice for scar tissue. It utilizes over 300 different procedures to treat the majority of the different muscles, tendons, ligaments and nerves in the body.
ART is a type of manual, soft tissue work that is deep and very specific. It works like this. First, the doctor identifies the scarred area by palpating or feeling it. Then, the muscle, tendon, or ligament is shortened by moving the affected body part. The doctor places a contact (thumb or fingers) on the scar, creating tension and the patient moves the body part back to its original position to lengthen the structure. This generates tension that breaks down scar tissue and restores normal movement, texture, tension, and function to the tissues, which reduces pain and improves performance.
ART treatment is unique for two reasons. First, it utilizes the patient motion to generate tension; this is the only way to produce enough force to really break down the scar tissue, and second, the treatment is very specific. It is essential to treat not only the right tissue, but the exact area within the tissue! After all, if you are not on the scar tissue you can’t break it down.
If you have a nagging injury and are interested in ART treatment and live in the Boston area, please feel free to contact me at the Soft Tissue Diagnostic & Treatment Center, 617-367-3110 or visit us at http://www.softtissuetreatment.com/.
For those of you outside Metro-Boston, you can find a provider in your area by going to http://www.activerelease.com/.
Dr. William F. Brady, D.C.