Wednesday, June 18, 2008

ART - Active Release Technique

A lot of people have heard of ART, or Active Release Technique, but most don't know what it is or how it can be helpful. ART is just one of the many methods of treatment we use in our office to help our patients get better as fast as possible. It is a specialized form of massage commonly used in sports medicine, and its goal is to reduce muscle tension while re-aligning muscle fibers and breaking up scar tissue. Because of its multiple effects, ART is a very powerful therapy. It can easily be over-done or done incorrectly, resulting in significant and long-lasting muscle soreness after treatment. For this reason, it is important to only ever receive ART from a licensed ART practitioner.

A common use for ART is for rotator cuff muscles. In this case, the patient is usually seated with the doctor standing behind them. The patient will shorten the muscle being treated and the doctor will use their hand to "pin down" the muscle in the appropriate location. The patient then moves their arm through a prescribed range of motion while the doctor maintains pressure, causing the muscle to move under the doctor's hand. This motion is what separates ART from other forms of massage. By having the patient actively use their arm, the neurologic input to the area of treatment is significantly increased. In addition, by "pulling" along the muscle fibers, the fibers themselves can be re-aligned and any scar tissue in the area is broken up.

As you might imagine, this is an extremely effective therapy!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Case of the Week: Reynaud's Syndrome

Raynaud’s Syndrome is actually more common than most people think. The symptoms typically present as numbness or a feeling of cold in the hands or fingers, caused by constrictionof the small bloodvessels, called capillaries. In our office, our most recent patient presented with her fingers noticeably white from base to tip. She was complaining of numbness in her fingers and a feeling of constantly being cold. She was also under a significant amount of stress at work and at home, and the increase in her hand symptoms over the last few weeks had added to the stress. She reported that the feeling of numbness and cold seemed to get better and worse throughout the day and night, without any apparent pattern. She had tried wearing gloves and using hot packs on her hands, but the relief they provided was only temporary.

Raynaud’s is most common in women from the ages 18-30, and is typically aggravated by emotional stress. In order to actually be diagnosed with Raynaud's syndrome, the patient is supposed to have had symptoms for at least 2 years. Otherwise, it is supposed to be called Raynaud's phenomenon.

In our patient’s case, there was really very little physically wrong with her. Her pulses were strong and regular, her sensation in her hand was normal, and there were no muscles or joints affecting the ability of the nerves to transmit information. Our recommendation for the patient was to find a way to decrease her emotional stress. We recommended seeing a counselor and arranging to take some time off work. In the mean time, reducing her exposure to cold temperatures, especially to her hands, would help decrease symptoms.

A follow-up revealed the patient’s symptoms had decreased to a manageable level within a few weeks of focusing on stress-reduction.