Active Release Therapy

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(Dr. Jefferson Roth. Photo Courtesy of The Aspen Club)

Ok, I’ll admit it, I don’t take care of myself. I mean, I eat healthy foods and I work out as often as time allows,  but if my body starts to hurt I just ignore it and as the pain grows I grow to accept it.

For ten years I was a Bikram’s yoga fanatic and I obsessively went to the 110 degree room to push and stretch my pain away, thinking that I was rejuvenating my body and staying young, but the pain would inevitably return…and so I quit, knowing that I needed to strengthen my core before continuing to push my flexible body into the twenty-six postures.

And now, where Wade and I are not yet clicking our dentures together before saying goodnight, we are however, hobbling around like we are ancient…but before giving up, I am determined to change our course and discover the cures and solutions to healthier bodies.

A close friend of mine, who understands the importance of taking care of ones own body, insisted we go to The Aspen Club & Spa to see her Active Release Therapist, Dr. Jefferson A. Roth, DC, CCSP, ART, and thus I began my journey toward healing.

Jeff manipulated, stretched and released my soft tissue, muscles and tendons, all the while talking about that deeply mystifying structure known as my body. And I soaked it all up, as much as my dyslexic right brain mind would let me. The who is connected to the what now?

Here is what I learned:

Jillian: How and where did you get started with your active release technique?

Jeffrey: How I got started was by accident. I hurt my elbow playing baseball and was told that I had a spur that was limiting my elbow motion and causing my sudden pain. A specialist said that surgery could correct the problem. I could not afford to close my clinic in Vail for many weeks. I tried all types of treatment to help overcome the problem with only temporary relief.

I had heard of a Doctor of Chiropractic down in Colorado Springs who had been working very successfully with athletes from the Olympic Teams. I went and visited him. He found that there was adhesions or scar tissue that had formed in a few spots behind my elbow in the muscles. He was not only able to identify the source of the problem with the precision of a surgeon, but also was able to give me some relief  from the chronic pain. The injections were helping me with the pain and inflammation for short term, but the active stretches he did with me corrected the pain generator.

Jillian: What is Active Release Technique?

Jeffrey: Active Release was developed by a Chiropractor who had been a test pilot in the Air Force as well as a aeronautical engineer. He realized before he finished school that the soft tissues; muscles,tendons, ligaments, nerves ,fascia,etc. are more important than what we were hearing in Chiropractic school. He had the opportunity to use many of the athletes in Colorado Springs at the Olympic Training Center, who began to line up to see the guy that was fixing their chronic pain, sometimes right on the spot.

Active Release is the first systematic approach I found to understanding soft tissues as a science. ART was the first soft tissue treatment that included motion with the release of the soft tissue injuries. A muscle is taken from a shortened position or contracted posture to an elongated position. Picture doing a yoga stretch while the doctor manually impedes the stretch allowing the scar tissue to be released. It allows us to complement the yoga, but allows us to affect and stretch many muscles inaccessible with yoga.

Jillian: How is your practice different from deep tissue massage?

Jeffrey: With massage the prime goal is usually for stress relief and to be relaxed. There are massage therapists that are extremely therapeutic, but the majority are putting lotions and oils on the skin which makes it very hard to change the texture of the muscles when they become injured from trauma or repetitive use. Deep tissue massage is getting in deep with lots of compression. In Active Release we want to lengthen the tissue like taffy, without the pain and deep compression in deep tissues.  Scar tissue is like velcro in our body. If these
adhesions form in the deeper muscle layers, then all we do is stick the muscles adhered to one another even more. With active release we have many stretches that allows us to restore proper translation between muscles that overlap one another or are just rubbing against one another as neighbors. Active Release is also the science of understanding how these patterns of soft tissue injuries

Jillian: How does it tie in with your chiropractic practice?

Jeffrey: ART ties in very well to the model of Chiropractic. If we first take the time to discover the muscular patterns of imbalance and correct them it makes the chiropractic portion of the care easy to perform. Think of the body as a onion and we are going to peel through the layers of muscular injury to get to the spine or skeleton. Once we make to necessary corrections making the manipulative adjustments become more gentle. We find many times that the muscles are causing the joints to compress and become locked, and if you do not correct the true source of the imbalance it will perpetuate.

Jillian: You mentioned that the technique is being used by the NFL. Can you tell us how it has helped the athletes and prevented surgery?

Jeffrey: Dr Leahy  was invited to join the medical staff for the Broncos in Denver ten years ago. He has paved the way for most of the NFL has many of my fellow instructors in the locker room using these techniques to keep the athletes on the field. Three years ago it was discovered by accident with the Denver Broncos that this work might actually minimize the meniscus from being torn so easily and often. They began in a unique prehab program to assess all the players once a month during the season. They were averaging eight meniscus repairs per year. There has not been one tear since the program was begun. This work can both prevent some surgeries from being necessary, but also can help resolve healing residuals [SCAR TISSUE] from  needed surgery with great results.

Jillian: You seem to work closely with other reputable surgeons. Do they refer their patients to you first prior to surgery?

Jeffrey: The surgeons are supportive of this work in many cases. I had a great working relationship with three surgeons at Steadman -Hawkins Clinic in Vail, as I practiced there for 28 years. Many surgical clinics have now brought in a provider of ART to work with most of the surgical patients. It takes a very progressive and open minded surgeon. The beautiful thing is the reports are as precise as the reports that they are generating from their surgeries.It will speed the recovery of many patients following surgery.

Jillian: You seem to travel a lot for conferences. Who do you train your technique to?

Jeffrey: I teach this work about four weeks a year for the ART corporation and have been one of his lead instructors for ten years now. These classes are attended by Chiropractors, physical therapists, podiatrists, occupational therapists, sports physicians, athletic trainers from the Olympic teams, NFL, NHL, NBA, and from collegiate level.

ART is also a system of understanding the motion and kinisiology of the athlete. How this is done is with a biomechanical evaluation. If the patient does a certain sport that causes the problem or as they do a certain weightlifting maneuver, we want to watch them do their sport so we can see where the issues might be along the kinetic chain of motion. So there is a full analysis of the running gait when applicable to actually see where the true problem might be in the chain of events. The golf stroke is another example of how we are making inroads to understanding the golf swing. The Titleist Perfomance Institute has become involved with us as we are educating the pros that teach the gold pros about the muscles being imbalanced can have a dramatic affect on the swing.

Thank you Jeffrey for helping me to move more effectively and thank you Aspen Club for bringing me on as one of your bloggers. I’m ready to begin my healing journey, and I couldn’t do it without your help!

Now tell us, what are you doing to heal yourself and who are your healers?

6 COMMENTS

    • If I am the epitome of health than what are you, who works out three hours every day???? If you could just omit anything white from your diet than your unhealthy eating “issues” would go away like Psffffft!

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