Active Release Techniques for sciatic pain??
March 9, 2007 4:49 PM   Subscribe

Experiences with Active Release Techniques (ART) (TM)??

I went to a really good sports doctor today for a muscle strain/inflammation problem (piriformis/hamstring) that simply won't quit. X-rays showed a slight degeneration of one disc but he didn't think that was the problem and I agreed. It seems to be a vicious circle of muscles spasming and causing other muscles to go into spasm, while also compressing the sciatic nerve. It's manageable with Advil and stretching and it seems to be VERY slowly improving. Emphasis VERY.

He recommended some sensible physio but also Active Release Techniques which I'd heard of but didn't know much about. He demonstrated a pressure point release which had a really quite amazing effect on the strength of one muscle. However it's a chiropractic technique, and I'm adamantly opposed to chiropractic on the grounds of snake oil. (I don't want to argue that point here).

However he pointed out it was a soft tissue manipulation, which is fair enough, and googling it seemed to suggest that it has worked well for some people. I've had good results myself doing deep tissue massage on myself with a tennis ball and it seems vaguely related to that.

So does anyone have direct experience, especially if you don't trust traditional chiropractic? What should I expect? Bonus points if you have piriformis or sciatic issues.
posted by sweet mister to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I've had massage therapists use various release techniques on me, to alleviate muscle spasms. Some are no more sophisticated than simply holding pressure on a muscle, to keep blood from flowing into it, until it is forced into anerobic metabolism, uses up all its anerobic fuel, fatigues completely, and quits spasming. Hurt like hell, but broke the cycle of spasms and pain for 30 minutes to 3 or 4 hours.

As did muscle relaxants, warm water hydro massage, and long term, losing a lot of weight, and doing strengthening excercise, at various times. The applicability of any technique to any specific condition is always going to be variable from one person to the next, if for no other reason than the individual variance in gross anatomy and nervous sensibility. So, I think you've got to shop for help, and do the things that do well for you. It's good to seek medical help, and be skeptical of snake oil, but frankly, for chronic conditions of spasm and soft tissue muscle injury, or nerve irritation, conventional Western medicine runs out of canonical treatment pretty fast. Do what your doctors tell you to, so long as you are satisfied with improvement, but don't dismiss the power of a good placebo, either, if it lets you sleep nights you otherwise wouldn't have.
posted by paulsc at 5:40 PM on March 9, 2007

If you want to get the pain gone, and want to see an actual physician that can treat it--find an osteopathic physician (DO) that does OMT (osteopathic manipulative treatment)--chiropractics are an offshoot of us (I'm med student in DO school) but we're actual doctors. Just pick up the phone book and search in yellow pages under physicians. You won't be disappointed.
posted by uncballzer at 5:44 PM on March 9, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm with you on the quackery and typically not a fan of these indefinite ongoing (read: $$$) therapies but I've had amazing results with ART. An injury that has been lingering for 3 years is practically cured after 4 sessions. I don't think you can even compare it to massage/ myofascial release/ rolfing/ regular PT when it comes to dealing with scar tissue and loss of mobility. Not even in the ballpark.
posted by fshgrl at 6:19 PM on March 9, 2007

While I have had success with "regular" PT, I do know folks who have sworn up and down that ART cured them where regular PT did not. This was for overuse injuries.
posted by dame at 9:16 PM on March 9, 2007

ART has alleviated my symptoms but hasn't cured the underlying problem, so yeah, it definitely works.
posted by aeighty at 12:39 AM on March 10, 2007

I have had sciatica on and off. The last episode went away after I tried a number of things. I think the most helpful were physical therapy (which helped me make long-term changes in my walking posture) and massage. Yoga has also been helpful.
posted by mingshan at 10:36 AM on March 11, 2007

« Older What   |   CSS Filter: making tight CSS files, style guides... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.