Active Release Technique and the Chiropractor | The Sisterhood of the Shrinking Jeans LLC


I used to think chiropractors were a crock of shit, I mean what did chiropractors really do other than make ‘adjustments’, and did they really even help anyone?  I based my opinion on lack of information and the stereotypical that perpetuates this line of thinking.  At the time, I had zero personal experience with ANY chiropractors.  Plus, I didn’t really *need* a chiropractor.

Fast forward to 2010.

I was training for my first half marathon. It was going well until I hit week whatever, the week where I had to run 8 miles (my longest to date at that time).  I did the run and it felt alright but after that run, I started having some major twangs and twitches and soreness and achiness in my left hip. Being the inexperienced runner I was then, I did not know about stretching nor foam rolling or when I should stop and rest in order to recover. Instead, I pushed on through with my training for a few more weeks, adding more soreness and aches to my already aching body. Until one day, I woke up and literally could not walk because of the pain in my hip.

It hurt so bad.

I hobbled and limped and could not run (even if I wanted to).

I went to an orthopedic doctor who did an MRI and thankfully told me I did not have any tears or anything major wrong. He gave me a cortizone shot which helped for a short while but ultimately, the pain returned.

I did not train for four weeks and then I did that half marathon ANYWAY.  Yeah, I was that stubborn, naive, determined runner.

I did not run after that day for 6 more weeks.

I hobbled and limped those 6 weeks.

And whined and complained and shed some tears.

FINALLY, a runner friend of mine told me I should see her chiropractor, who worked with many runners and triathletes.  She had seen him with positive results and lot of her runner friends had the same, also with positive results. I was leary but willing to try anything to make the pain stop. I figured a visit or two couldn’t hurt and maybe it would help!

During my first visit with him, he told me he would have me back to running within two weeks.  I didn’t believe him during that visit, but he was absolutely correct–he had me back to running within two weeks.

I could write a novel about chiropractors and the different things I’ve learned about running, about my body, and stretches and strengthening, but I want to share the technique that has helped me the most.


According to Wikipedia, “Active release technique (ART) is a soft tissue system/movement-based technique developed and patented by P. Michael Leahy. It claims to treat problems with muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nerves. There is little evidence to support its efficacy. The technique is advocated largely by chiropractors.”

“ART claims to treat conditions related to the build-up of adhesions and scar tissue in muscles. According to ART practitioners, these adhesions cause several problems: muscles become shorter and weaker, the motion of muscles and joints are altered, and nerves can become compressed. As a result, the affected tissues suffer from pain, decreased blood supply, and poor mobility. ART claims to fix these issues by releasing trapped nerves and restoring the smooth movement of muscle fibers.[1]

To the layman (me), it felt like the chiropractor was jabbing his thumb in my hip flexor/gluteus maximus while having me make certain back and forth movements with my leg.  It made me break out in a cold sweat.  It hurt like hell. I thought I might die. I had to focus on my breathing. BUT, it worked (over several sessions).

Since then (that was 5 years ago), I have had ART done on various parts of my lower body, mainly the calves and feet. Any time I feel a particular ache or soreness that doesn’t go away with rest, I know it’s time to see the chiro. I no longer let my aches and pains from long distance running become a big problem. Interesting tidbit, when the doc does ART on my calves, he uses his elbow to apply pressure!

  • Does ART work for everyone?  I can’t answer for anyone else, but I can answer for me- it works!
  • Does every chiropractor offer ART?  NO. A chiropractor has to be certified in ART in order to offer it.
  • How do I find out if my chiropractor offers ART?  Just ask.
  • Is ART right for me?  I don’t know. That is a conversation that should happen between you and your chiropractor.
  • Does my insurance cover ART?  Again, I can’t speak for ALL insurance policies, but I can speak of my experience. It depends on the coverage you have and it depends on how your chiropractors *code* it. I believe (and don’t quote me), some chiropractors code it as chiropractic work and others code it as physical therapy work. I would find out what your insurance covers as far as chiropractic services and then also speak to your chiropractor to see how they code it. Sometimes you will find it’s cheaper to *pay out of pocket* rather than go through insurance (I’ve done both!).
  • How do I find a good chiropractor? As with all doctors, I highly recommend asking for referrals, especially if you are looking for someone who is familiar with sports-related aches and pains. Check with some of your running friends.

I am not a doctor and cannot claim a chiropractor is for you but I can share my experience and what’s worked for me! Knowledge is power and maybe ART could help one of you.

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