What is ART or Active Release Technique?
Active Release and Graston Techniques are both soft tissue therapies. Trained professionals use both methods of treatment but they perform the therapies in different manners.
P. Michael Leahy, DC, CCSP developed the Active Release Technique (ART). It is a technique of massage which is based on manipulation and movement of the soft tissue system. The Active Release Technique can treat a variety of problems in the nerves, fascia, tendons, ligaments, and muscles.
Overused muscles can cause pain from the underlying pulls, tears, and micro-trauma. These various forms of trauma in the muscles will in turn lead to the development of scar tissue. Scar tissue is part of the body’s healing process, but it can also inadvertently prevent muscles from moving freely and traps nerves. Range of motion issues, weakness, tingling, and numbness can also result.
ART could be a helpful therapy to treat knee problems, tennis elbow, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, shin splints, shoulder pain, plantar fasciitis, sciatica, and headaches. During an ART session, the practitioner can feel the tightness, texture, and movement in different parts of the patient’s body. All of this is so that the practitioner can determine which areas of the body need to be manipulated in order to provide the patient with treatment and relief. The patient is also actively directed to move their body parts in certain ways while the ART is being performed.1
What is GT or Gastron Technique?
The Graston Technique (GT) is also a method which treats tissue and skeletal muscle disorders just like the Active Release Technique does. But the way in which the practitioner provides treatment is different. Instead of using their hands, as one would in the case of employing ART, practitioners use special stainless steel tools to palpate and break up any adhesions which are causing problems in the muscles and tendons.2
Trained professionals use the Graston Technique to treat scar tissue and assist with improving the patient’s range of motion. The instruments are meant to perform a combing motion over the skin and physically catch on fibrotic tissue as an instrument is gliding along the surface. The idea of having an instrument that catches on fibrotic tissue would be that the hidden scar tissue which was causing problems would be found and broken up in the process of the Graston Technique.
Post GT Treatment
The patient may find that they experience discomfort and bruising following a session of GT. This is because the instrument is physically rough on the body, but the discomfort and discoloration are more temporary than the underlying problem which the Graston Technique treats. After treatment, patients would need to follow recommended stretches and use ice in order to aid the recovery process. Resting is often a recommended part of recovery. However, too much time spent resting could actually be detrimental to the healing process. That’s why the patients should consult with the professional about recommended courses of action.3
The Graston Technique can treat tendinopathies. This includes the likes of tennis elbow, fascial syndromes, such as plantar fasciitis, myofascial pain, which applies to headaches, sprains, and strains. Patients will also learn special exercises to coincide with their GT treatment. Different types of stretches and exercises might be recommended for the patient directly after a GT treatment or during the time in between treatment sessions. The body might be able to heal itself. But sometimes the process needs a bit of encouragement through complementary and alternative medicine.4
Choosing GT or ART
From the standpoint of the practitioner of these techniques, performing the Active Release Technique on many patients can lead to sore hands and thumbs from all of the effort required to work out adhesions and perform smaller realignments. The Graston Technique, because it uses instruments with a special lubricant, aims to avoid this issue. However, practitioners may tend to grip harder on slippery instruments. Both techniques require special training in order for practitioners to become properly certified and capable of performing these techniques successfully on patients.
Chiropractors can perform either ART or GT in chiropractic offices. Some chiropractors employ both methods, as they can complement each other well. Neither technique provides the complete solution, as both methods will still require the patient to comply with training in order to increase strength and flexibility and to avoid whatever task induced the patient’s injuries in the first place. Many chiropractors now regularly perform both joint manipulation and soft tissue manipulation (STM) in their practices. Practitioners can choose the additional training they need in order to practice these techniques, as well as whether or not they want to purchase the instruments associated with the Graston Technique. By adding STM to the practice, chiropractors can expand their services and treat a wider variety of patients. Some may wish to learn ART first, since it does not require additional instrumentation.5