Active Release Techniques for Overuse Injuries

By Omer Aguilar – Physical Therapist

NovaCare LogoDoes this scenario sound familiar to you? You’re running along the lakefront path getting in a long run and you feel pain at the side of your knee at mile 8. You feel it as you complete your run but is completely gone by that evening. Then you feel the symptoms again on your next run except now the pain happens at mile 6. Then mile 5, and now it hurts to just go down the stairs. This may be the same story for someone’s calf, hamstring or hip. Unfortunately, these overuse injuries can lead to a running season cut short. Active Release Techniques (ART) can play a part in addressing overuse injuries. It has been a major presence in Ironman races for over 20 years.

What is ART?
ART is a movement based/soft tissue technique that addresses problems with muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nerves which are often a result of overuse. When tissue is subjected to acute conditions (pulls, tears, contusions) or an accumulation of small tears (microtrauma), scar tissue can build up. This can lead to decreased flexibility, decreased strength as well as feeling pain. It can affect how easily the separate muscles/tendons, fascia, ligaments and nerves move independently of one another. This can lead to inefficiencies in movement patterns.

The Physical Therapist (or other ART provider) evaluates the affected area and treats the abnormal tissues using a combination of precisely directed tension and specific patient movements.

Active Release Techniques and the rest of the treatment plan.
ART can play an integral role in getting you back on the road but it is usually one part of the comprehensive treatment plan for the injured runner. Trunk and hip weakness may need to be addressed. Dynamic balance and joint mobility should be assessed. Running form may need a closer look. Working with a clinician or team of clinicians familiar with the endurance athlete is an excellent approach to overcoming an overuse injury.

Give this a try!
Many runners use a foam roller to address issues with their IT bands. If you’re already familiar on how to “roll out” your IT band, you can try this release technique on your own:

  • Lay sideways putting the outside of your right thigh on a firm foam roller
  • “Roll out” your IT band (from pelvis to knee joint) as you normally would
  • Stop at a position a few inches above your knee joint
  • Bend the knee as far as you can and then completely straighten. Repeat.
  • Continue to “roll out” and stop at a spot just above previous position
  • Bend the knee and completely straighten as before.
  • You can try this along the entire length of the IT band using pressure on the foam roller as tolerated.

About the author
Omer Aguilar is a Physical Therapist at the NovaCare Rehabilitation clinic in Wicker Park. He has over 14 years of Sports Medicine and Orthopedic experience with a special interest in treating endurance athletes.

NovaCare Rehabilitation Certified ART provider locations:
Wicker Park
1751 W. Division St, C1-E

5221 N. Broadway

Lakeview – Fitness Formula Club
3240 N. Halsted St.

Lincoln Park-Diversey
1002 W. Diversey

Loop-Millenium Park
111 N. Wabash, Suite 1603

Union Station – Fitness Formula Club
444 W. Jackson, 2nd floor

West Loop – Fitness Formula Club
10 S. Clinton, 1st floor

Oak Park
610 S. Maple, Suite 3500

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