Des Moines Massage Alternative Active Release Techniques
Muscles, ligaments, and tendons are in layers all over the body. These layers normally glide smoothly over each other or next to each other. If an area of the body is injured or overused, your body’s mechanism for stabilizing the area is to add tougher scar tissue. If this scar tissue overstays its welcome, pain and tightness are the result. As one layer moves it will tug on the one next to or under it. Reinjury and pain may occur each time your activities cause movement in the area.
If scar tissue has developed in your body, there are two main ways to address it: stretch it out or massage it. Both can offer some reduction in symptoms but sometimes neither will totally fix the problem. The following examples should help you understand why.
Picture two layers of muscle as two bed sheets. With one person at each end, they can easily slide one sheet over the other. Now imagine that a few yarn knots representing scar tissue tie together the two sheets in the middle. Normal sliding won’t be possible any more. Imagine that the person at each end takes both sheets in their hands and pulls as hard as possible. Will the knots break? Perhaps some of the knots will break, but it’s unlikely that all will. The sheets may become more stretched out, but normal sliding still won’t be possible. With the tension of stretching alone, a problem condition is often improved and made more functional but may not be “fixed.”
Visualize an area of scar tissue as a piece of tough bubble gum. Imagine dropping the gum on the ground and trying to break it apart by stepping on it. Are you going to be very effective? This example illustrates the effects of a typical deep tissue massage at dealing with tough scar tissue. The kneading and stripping pressure of massage may loosen up the scar tissue to some extent but may not fully resolve the condition.
Now imagine taking that same piece of tough gum and stretching it out between your hands. If you have a friend give it even a very light karate chop, it will now break in half with almost no force at all. This is possible because the gum is under tension when pressure is applied.
Active Release Techniques works by combining patient-assisted stretching of the involved layers with specific provider-applied pressure on the scar tissue causing the health problem (no karate chops involved). This generates tension and pressure into the scar tissue and results in the problem areas of scar tissue freeing up. Our goal with Active Release Techniques is to achieve permanent resolution of soft tissue problems.
Some of the most common conditions we treat include neck pain, back pain, and headaches as well as arm and leg conditions such as shoulder pain, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, hip pain, sciatica, and plantar fasciitis. With these tough problems functional improvement of surrounding muscles is often required as well, and we usually put together a home exercise and stretching plan to address that as well.