Active Release Technique Therapy
A.R.T is somewhat similar to massage therapy in that a therapist will use their hands to manipulate soft tissues. During A.R.T, however, the patient or the therapist will actively flex and extend different muscle groups during manual therapy. This active motion improves circulation and helps to break down scar tissue. A.R.T can help people with:
- Plantar fasciitis
- Tennis elbow
- Shin splints
- Carpal tunnel
- Neck pain
- Back pain
One study found that A.R.T was helpful for people with neck pain as it improved range of motion and the pressure pain threshold score.
Graston and Astym Therapy
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there is a therapy called Gua sha, which is where a therapist uses a tool, such as a smooth stone, to scrape the skin. Gua sha improves circulation and helps to break down scar tissue. Many therapists have taken the gua sha concept and applied it to different physical therapy techniques, such as the Graston technique and the Astym technique.
Therapists that follow Graston and Astym protocols use plastic and/or metal tools to rub down soft tissues instead of their hands. If you have deeper areas of scar tissue that can’t be resolved by manual therapy, then these types of tools can be beneficial since the therapist can apply deeper pressure. These tools also come in a variety of shapes, which can help therapists pinpoint difficult-to-reach muscle groups, like the iliopsoas. Lastly, these tools help stimulate new cell growth in soft tissues and help the body resorb scar tissue.
Dry needling is a therapy where practitioners use thin needles to break up scar tissue and reduce inflammation in trigger points. Trigger points are tight muscle fibers that can form from soft tissue trauma, muscle imbalances, and repetitive motions.
Some people may confuse dry needling with acupuncture treatments. While dry needling looks like acupuncture, Healthline points out some distinct differences.
For example, acupuncture is rooted in T.C.M and is meant to improve energy flow in the body; dry needling’s main focus is on correcting overly tight muscles with scar tissue. If your soft tissue injury has caused muscle spasms, then dry needling may be a good option. Some people’s soft tissue injuries may cause extreme sensitivity to touch, so dry needling may be a better option for these patients instead of A.R.T or Graston/Astym therapy.
I’m glad to know this because I only have a Tissue Viability Nurse and none of these techniques were suggested to me. I intend on trying out these new techniques soon.