One Lifters experience with Active Release Techniques

Working out and lifting weights has been a huge part of my life forever so I’ve had my fare share of aches and pains. I developed a shoulder problem about 15 years ago, back in the “How much do ya bench?” days. The shoulder joint is the most mobile joint in the body and therefore, inherently prone to injury. I attribute most of the damage to my practice of including heavy Behind the Head Military Presses but deep weighted dips and, of course, my beloved Barbell Bench didn’t help my shoulders either. At one point the pain was so bad I had to shampoo my head with just my left hand. I went the normal route of treatments that included anti inflammatories, ice packs, physical therapy and cortisone shots but it finally came down to surgery for Shoulder impingement syndrome. After more of the previous treatments I was back to heavy benching but I was smart enough to drop the Behind the Head Militaries. My shoulder was good enough to carry me through about ten bench press contests in the following three years.

I don’t consider myself a “runner” but running is an aspect of some of my other competitions so I include it in my training. I try to keep it interesting with trail runs or sprint/walks. A couple of years ago I started getting cramps in my left calf. The pain was bad enough that I had to stop running. I tried some acupuncture treatments and the cramps went away. Not long after that anytime I ran or got on a piece or cardio equipment I could feel my calf starting to knot up again. I adjusted my workouts and decided I had to live with the pain.

I was reading some articles on the Poliquin website and I came across a new treatment called Active Release Techniques. A.R.T. is basically a super deep tissue massage performed by a highly skilled certified practitioner. It’s based on the theory that, from over use, scar tissue is formed within the muscles, the fascia and the connective tissue. These adhesions trap nerves causing pain, weakness and lack of mobility. The practitioner will find the scar tissue and manually break it up using a very specific technique.

I searched the A.R.T. website to find someone certified in my area. I set up an appointment with Dr. Ken Lowey of Newton Center Chiropractic. On my first visit I gave him a summary of my injuries and told him I had problems with my right shoulder and left calf. He began searching my shoulder with his finger tips and quickly knew just where the pain was located. The next several minutes he manipulated my arm as his fingers and thumb dug deep into the front of my shoulder. The pain was agonizing and reached about an eight on a ten scale.

He then began working on my calf. He quipped that the scar tissue felt like a thick cable. He pressed deep along the length of this cable with his thumb. He repeatedly inched his way toward my knee as if he was trying to press all the toothpaste out of a full tube. The pain just kept increasing until it topped off at a full ten. I was clenching my teeth so hard I’m surprised my molars didn’t explode. I thought about tapping out but I didn’t want the loss on my record. I remembered reading that this treatment “could be painful” and I wasn’t disappointed.

He finally said that was all he could do on the first session and wasn’t going to argue. He recommended I workout as usual and come back in a week.
For the next several days my shoulder and calf were sore to the touch and I was surprised there was no bruising.

My next treatment was about ten days later. He worked on my left calf and it was almost painless. The doctor said he got most of the scarring on the first session and there was very little left to break up. He also located and broke up a little scarring in my right calf.

He worked on both shoulders, and while still painful, it wasn’t nearly as bad as the first session.
After another week and several workouts, I felt like my calf was completely healed and pain free. The pain in my shoulder is at least half of what it was prior to treatment. I plan on going back for more treatments on both shoulders.

Had I not found this new treatment I’m sure I would continue to tailor my workouts around my nagging injuries. The fact that the pain in my calf has disappeared after two sessions is amazing. Maybe after a few more treatments I’ll be back to pain free chest and shoulder workouts again.

Before using the old traditional methods of treatment for nagging muscle and joint pain I would recommend you try Active Release Techniques. Try to get through the first session without giving up all your darkest family secrets and the PIN to your debit card.


About the Author
Jim Vaglica is a Strength and Conditioning Specialist and Team Labrada Athlete, Jim competed on the Reality TV shows American Grit, hosted by John Cena, and Mark Burnett’s Expedition Impossible. He is a Police Sergeant with 16 yrs on SWAT and the Owner of JimVaglica.com

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