A Guide to the Active Release Technique with Dr. Eugene Capitano

A Concise History and Summary of this Highly-Effective Approach to Soft Tissue Treatment

Eugene Capitano
Oct 15, 2020 · 3 min read

The Active Release Technique — sometimes called Active Release Therapy — is a nearly forty year old medical process designed to repair soft tissue damage and restore patients to optimal levels of mobility. Although differing in some significant ways, the Active Release Technique has been found to be highly successful in treating many of the same conditions that traditional chiropractic treatment usually deals with. Some typical symptoms that people who seek out Active Release Technique treatment suffer from include (but are not confined to) stiffness or pain in the back, neck, shoulders, hands, knees, or feet, as well as reduced flexibility, decreased strength, inflammation, tingling, or permeating numbness. Chiropractic health coach, Dr. Eugene Capitano provides a brief overview.

History

In the mid-1980s, Dr. P. Michael Leahy, DC, CCSP, a Doctor of Chiropractic medicine, developed the soft tissue treatment that would later come to be known as the Active Release Technique. The idea came to fruition as he noticed a clear correspondence between patient symptoms and changes in their soft tissues. In response, he developed a treatment program entirely revolving around a patient’s symptoms in their muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, and nerves. Dr. Leahy’s goal was to restore unimpeded motion, release trapped nerves, vasculature, and lymphatics, as well as to re-establish optimal function of the soft tissues. He published his initial results in a 1985 document entitled Myofascial Release, but later filed a patent for the treatment under the name Active Release Techniques. Since then, the Active Release Technique has gained widespread acceptance in the sports medicine and rehabilitative science communities, and increased in popularity exponentially.

Medical Underpinnings

“Upon sustaining an injury to a muscle, tendon, or ligament, the human body responds by generating dense collections of scar tissue to connect and bind the affected area — something akin to the biological version of a splint” states Dr. Capitano. This scar tissue; however, produces negative consequences. Problems arise because it tends to stick to the other soft tissues inside the body, causing limitations in flexibility and mobility. Nerves can also be trapped, pinched, or pulled by scar tissue adhesion, causing pain to emanate from muscles and joints. Active release technique is a method to aid in minimizing internal scar tissue and restore mobility that is vital to human locomotion. Combined with exercise, Active Release Technique becomes a very powerful tool to resolve these issues.

Technique

In an Active Release Technique session, the attending clinician — almost always a chiropractor — works together with the patient through a combination of examinations and treatments to get a sense of the soft tissue problems affecting them. This is done by the clinician using their hands to evaluate the texture, tightness, and movement of the patient’s muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, and nerves. Far from a one-size-fits-all approach, the Active Release Technique treatment protocols detail more than five hundred specific moves designed to pinpoint the precise location and nature of a patient’s injury. After the problem is found, a program designed to repair the affected soft tissue is developed by the clinician. This primarily involves a series of guided physical manipulations and movements of the patient meant to increase tension in the affected area, and, as a result, reorganize the amassed internal scar tissue and allow blood flow to resume its natural course unblocked.

According to Dr. Capitano, “It is worth noting that among those who seek out the Active Release Technique treatment, it is often not a single acute traumatic injury event responsible for their pain and discomfort, but rather years of repetitive overuse of the soft tissue in question. Whatever the nature of the injury, if it involves damage to the soft tissue, chances are very good that consistent treatments of the Active Release Technique administered by a trained clinician can help to repair it.”