Improved Treatment for Headaches with Active Release Techniques®

Any headache sufferer knows that headaches can be among the most frustrating and debilitating health problems. When headaches develop they often interfere or prevent many of our most basic daily activities such as using the computer, reading, carrying on a conversation, and even thinking. To make matters worse, studies show that treatment for headaches tops the list for conditions in which patients are most dissatisfied with their care. Now for the good news, a new treatment technique known as Active Release Techniques® (ART®) is proving to be a very effective method to treat many common types of headaches. Through ART® treatments, many headache sufferers are now able to finally get a handle on their headaches and get back to living their lives. 

Active Release Technique for headaches and migraines




How Can Headaches Be Treated?

The Traditional Approach…

The most common approach to treating headaches is medication to reduce inflammation, block pain, or relax muscles that may be causing headache symptoms. In the case of chronic or recurrent headaches, sometimes doctors will prescribe stronger prescription medications to help fight the headache symptoms. In some cases, even more invasive measures such as joint blocks are used, whereby an agent is injected into the joint to block the referred pain and other symptoms. The main reason that medications fail to provide long-term resolution for headaches is that they fail to address any underlying problems of the muscles, nerves or joints of the neck that are causing recurrent headaches. Instead, they address the symptoms of the headache and simply cover up the underlying issues in the neck – issues that if not addressed will continue to cause problems.

As a result many people become reliant on medication to accomplish relief of their headaches. This is not only a temporary fix that is only covering up the problem, but it also increases risk of side-effects and dependency on the medication. Unfortunately, muscle tightness and imbalance, scar tissue adhesions, nerve entrapments, and abnormal joint movement can not be seen on an x-ray or advanced imaging. These problems in the muscles, joints, nerves and ligaments can however, be felt or tested with the hands of a properly skilled and experienced practitioner. A thorough history and clinical examination is usually sufficient to give the clinician enough information to diagnose the problem.

Active Release Technique for Headaches and Migraines

Active Release Technique is a highly successful hands-on treatment method to address problems in the soft tissues of the body, including the muscles, ligaments, fascia, and nerves. ART treatment is highly successful in dealing with paddling related injuries because it is specifically designed to locate and treat scar tissue adhesions that accumulate in the muscles and surrounding soft tissues. By locating and treating the soft-tissue adhesions with ART, it allows the practitioner to,

1) break-up restrictive adhesions

2) reinstate normal tissue flexibility and movement

3) more completely restore flexibility, balance, and stability to the injured area and to the entire kinetic chain

You can think of an ART treatment as a type of active massage. The practitioner will first shorten the muscle, tendon, or ligament. They will then apply a very specific pressure with their hands as you actively stretch and lengthen the tissues. As the tissue lengthens the practitioner is able to assess the texture and tension of the muscle to determine if the tissue is healthy or contains scar tissue that needs further treatment. When scar tissue adhesions are felt the amount and direction of tension can be modified to treat the problematic area. In this sense, each treatment is also an assessment of the health of the area as we are able to feel specifically where the problem is occurring.

An additional benefit of ART is it allows us to further assess and correct problems not only at the site of pain itself, but also in other areas of the kinetic chain. These areas are associated with movement compensations and are often contributing factors to the problem. This ensures that all the soft tissues that have become dysfunctional and are contributing to the specific injury are addressed, even if they have not yet all developed pain.

Get Faster Results with ART!

One of the best things about ART is how fast it can get results. In our experience, the majority of head and neck related injuries respond very well to ART treatment, especially when combined with the appropriate home stretching and strengthening exercises. Although each case is unique and there are several factors that will determine the length of time required to fully resolve each condition, we usually find a significant improvement can be gained in just 4 – 6 treatments. These results are the main reason that many elite athletes and professional sports teams have ART practitioners on staff, and why ART is an integral part of the Iron man triathlon series.

To book an appointment to see if ART will be able to help you, simply call our office at 613.237.3306.


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