It's a form of therapy, technically a massage therapy technique, that apparently is worth multiple, relatively long drives in your car.
"I had Achilles tendinitis for two years," says Dr. Hugh Myrick, a local triathlete who competes on a state level. "I tried everything to get rid of it — typical rehab, NSAIDs (nonsteroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs), icing, stretching, rest — and nothing really worked."
Then he heard some triathletes in Columbia extolling Active Release Techniques, commonly known as ART.
Desperate for relief, Myrick decided to make his first trek to the capital city three years ago to see the only practitioner in the state at the time, Dr. Charles Renick. Within four sessions, Myrick's tendinitis was gone.
While he still seeks out rehab and massage to treat and prevent injuries, Myrick says the patented technique has become an important augmentation to staying healthy.
"There are a lot of things in medicine that demand a multidisciplinary approach," says the associate professor of psychiatry at the Medical University of South Carolina. "Sometimes you have to put all those things together to fix a problem."
ART was developed in 1988 by Dr. Michael Leahy, a chiropractor. While nearly 6,000 practitioners are certified to do it, few have made their way to South Carolina. Now, locals with chronic injuries have to drive only to Summerville to get relief for problems including plantar fasciitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatica and De Quervain's tenosynovitis.
Dr. Jeremiah Jimerson set up shop on Main Street nearly 18 months ago. The 30-year-old Buffalo, N.Y., native moved here for the same reason most do — better weather — and found that he was filling a health care void. He's looking to open a satellite office closer to Charleston.
Like many practitioners, Jimerson is a chiropractor by training and trade. While in school, he heard about other chiropractic students using ART on patients and was astounded by the success rate. He started studying the technique and using it at the Veterans Administration hospital in Buffalo. While working at a chiropractic office near Buffalo, he started seeing 90 patients a day.
"I even had members of the (Buffalo) Bills and Sabres showing up at the door," says Jimerson.
ART is a soft-tissue massage technique that focuses on breaking up scar tissue, or adhesions, that build up on muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and/or nerves as a result of repetitive use or an injury. Scar tissue shortens muscles, increases tension on tendons and traps nerves, all of which can reduce range of motion and cause pain.
"It becomes a snowball effect," says Jimerson, noting that inflexibility and pain result in the body overcompensating in other ways that compromise good biomechanics. That results in reduced blood flow to the injured area, further exacerbating the problem by "starving" it of restorative nutrients.
Jimerson says he first asks patients about their injuries and backgrounds, if they have desk jobs and what activities they participate in. Then he proceeds to massage muscles that may not be in the injured area but may be part of the cause of the problems. For example, plantar fasciitis manifests itself with extreme foot pain, typically in the heel, but Jimerson may start looking for scar tissue in the individual muscle groups of the calf.
"I can physically feel the adhesions with my hands and work to break them up," he says.
Practitioners may use chiropractic adjustments as part of the therapy as well as prescribe certain exercises and stretches to restore strength, stability and flexibility to the affected area.
"ART is not the be-all, end-all solution to the problem," says Jimerson.
He adds that restoring pain-free range of motion is the goal, but that even people who are extremely flexible, including yoga instructors, have come to him for relief.
What is ART?
Active Release Techniques is a patented massage technique that focuses on the soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nerves) damaged by overuse or injury, which often results in pulls, tears and hypoxia, or not getting enough oxygen.Each of these factors can cause your body to produce tough, dense scar tissue in the affected area. That binds up and ties down tissues that need to move freely. As scar tissue builds up, muscles become shorter and weaker, tension on tendons causes tendinitis, and nerves can become trapped. This can cause reduced range of motion, loss of strength and pain.Every ART session is actually a combination of examination and treatment. The ART provider uses his or her hands to evaluate the various soft tissues. Abnormal tissues are treated by combining precisely directed tension with very specific patient movements, including 500 specific moves, that are unique to ART. They allow providers to identify and correct the specific problems that are affecting each individual patient.