Olympian Jeff Pain swears by active release therapy to get sore or injured muscles moving again, and to generally improve his athletic performance.
"There's no better therapy out there," says Pain, as chiropractor Conrad Tang uses his thumbs to work the quadriceps muscle of the 2006 silver medallist in skeleton.
So-called "manual release therapies" such as active release therapy, Graston technique and Kinesio Taping are all the rage -Jon Montgomery reportedly used active release therapy prior to his gold-medal win at the 2010 Olympics.
But there's little scientific evidence to support the effectiveness of the therapies, says Tang, also a kinesiology researcher with the University of Calgary who is embarking on a study to determine if manual release therapies, at the cutting edge of injury treatment and performance enhancement for elite athletes, can help regular folks with kneecap pain.
He's looking for 20 active people between the ages of 18 and 45 with patella pain femoral syndrome, a common problem that affects about 30 per cent of the population, to participate in a free, eight-week treatment program.
Pain and injuries often lead to muscles that shut down and become dormant, explains Tang. Weakness and pain further hampers a person's ability to move. By manipulating and applying pressure, manual therapy techniques are said to "wake up" these muscles and improve mobility and range of motion.
"When a muscle is damaged, scar tissue forms and groups of muscles get stuck together. They're supposed to freely move against one another. But when they get stuck, the muscles shorten and get stiff. This can produce weakness in and shrinking of the muscle," he says of the downward spiral of injury.
"Patented techniques like Graston and active release are supposed to release the stickiness so that you have more movement and less stiffness and pain."
Study participants will be treated with one of three therapies.
Graston is a technique where the therapist rubs a spoon-like stainless steel instrument over a patient's muscles. With ART, the therapist uses his thumbs to stretch and apply pressure to muscles, tendons and ligaments while the patient moves the area being treated. Kinesio Taping involves using a new, flexible kind of therapeutic tape that can be worn for up to four days. It's thought to work by lifting the skin and activating the muscles beneath.
As an athlete, Pain is curious about the study outcome. Because elite athletes train constantly at intense levels, they're more prone to repetitive injuries, he says. He currently sees a therapist who uses all three techniques. "It keeps me pain-free, limber and performing well."
This doesn't feel right.
It's hard to shake that feeling the first time you hop on this bizarre machine. Your knees wobble, the bike wobbles and you are acutely aware of just how high off the ground you are.
But after 10 minutes or so, you may find yourself as comfortable and steady as if in a gym - minus the stale sweat smell and 24-hour cable news shows - as your up-and-down pedaling propels you.
That's right - up and down. This is an elliptical trainer on wheels, the ElliptiGO, and it has been turning heads since June in Colorado Springs, one of a handful of cities where it has been introduced.
The designers in California, an injured athlete and an engineer, created it as an alternative to a bicycle for those who have injuries that prevent cycling and anyone who has ever climbed an imaginary hill on an elliptical trainer in a gym and wished they could do the real thing. After five years of development, it rolled out in California in 2009 and became available nationwide earlier this summer, via the website elliptigo.com.
"It's similar to running. It's similar to mountain biking. But it's a totally unique experience and really not comparable to either," said Ken Hanes of Colorado Springs, regional sales representative for the fledgling company.
An avid mountain biker, Hanes suffered neck, back and knee problems five years ago and had to sell his bike.
"It was the love of my life to mountain bike. I did it all the time and it killed me to give it up," said Hanes, 44.
Then he came across the ElliptiGO online, bought one and found the endorphin rush from cruising that he had been missing.
He now owns two of the four ElliptiGOs in Colorado Springs.
"Anybody that's been pulled out of the game knows how much you miss that experience and it feels incredible to be back," he said. "I'm not doing any more personal damage to my neck, my spine, my knees."
Elliptical trainers are preferred by many fitness enthusiasts for their lack of impact. Like cycling, it's low-impact, meaning the force of the body does not come down on any one point, as in running.
But unlike cycling, it doesn't lead to a sore posterior from the seat, or neck and shoulders from the forward-leaning, craned-neck position of cycling.
That's why Tulio Pena likes elliptical trainers. But he hates using them inside.
"When I heard about it, I was like, 'Wow, wouldn't it be great to use something that works just like an elliptical not indoors but outside, where you don't have the boredom factor of being trapped in your basement?'" said Pena, who works for a medical clinic that helps athletes recover from injuries.
So he bought one, and rides it when he wants to get a workout and to get around town. He recommends it for anyone with back, neck or knee problems.
"It's really sad when people say, 'I have to hang it up' or they can't train anymore, and when you give them an alternative to stay fit, it's a big deal," Pena said.
The ElliptiGO is sold only online, though Colorado Springs is one of a dozen cities where the company has or is recruiting sales representatives.
But what about someone who hasn't been injured? Why spend $2,199 on one?
Hanes took me on a ride in downtown Colorado Springs to show me.
The learning curve was surprisingly short, given how shaky it seemed at first. Once I slipped into a groove, using my heels, as if on a fixed elliptical trainer, I was gliding smoothly over the pavement. There is no seat, no resting on your laurels like on a bicycle. It comes with eight gears, easily activated with the rider's right hand, to adjust the intensity of a ride.
Sure, it's fine on flat surfaces, but how often do you get those in Colorado? So Hanes took me on a hill. Sweat beaded on my forehead as I climbed Brookside Street, a similar sensation to running up a hill, and I felt like I had earned it. I rode the hand brake gliding down, as being so high above the ground continued to be disconcerting.
Then we cruised a mildly downhill stretch of the paved Pikes Peak Greenway trail, and the ElliptiGO really opened up. With a little practice and rhythm, the whole exercise was surprisingly efficient, and much more enjoyable on a sunny summer day than a gym session.
But it has its limitations. With 20-inch wheels and a high center of gravity, it seemed like it wouldn't take much of a pothole or rock to send me tumbling to the pavement. Forget about taking it on even a mild trail, or even older sidewalks. This is a road machine.
The price tag would also make it too expensive for many people, though Pena pointed out that avid cyclists may spend that much on a bicycle.
Another drawback? The ElliptiGO is so novel it draws a crowd. During our brief ride, drivers pulled over to take pictures, people yelled comments from cars, and conventional cyclists rode over to ask us about it.
That's fine with Pena. He wants to get the word out.
His only complaint about his new ElliptiGO: "It's kind of tricky to scratch your nose (while riding)."
|OSHA region 9 conference in Newport Beach - March 31, 2010
Dr. Vasili Gatsinaris and Tulio Pena of ART Corporate Solutions worked the ART Corporate Solutions booth at the OSHA region 9 conference in Newport Beach. They met with health and safety professionals from many companies who are proactive in the area of corporate employee wellness. On April 1, 2010. Tulio Pena delivered a 45 minute presentation before 100 corporate professionals.
To learn more about ART Corporate Solutions and the ART Elite Provider Network (EPN) Click here.
A Record Number of ART® Instructors Convened in Las Vegas
Over 90 ART® Instructors met for the largest ART® instructor conference ever, March 4 to 6 2010, at the the Rio in Las Vegas. Dr. Leahy worked with the group of instructors to improve and refine teaching techniques and protocols. ART's Board of Directors met several times to discuss and vote on many improvements to the ART® educational system. This is just one more way ART® and its instructors focus on constantly improving themselves and the overall ART® educational experience.
I sometimes think that the metaphor of viewing our players as formula one cars and my department as mechanics is not far off the truth. This last 12 days or so has given us plenty of 'tinkering' time to try and tune up certain key first team players. They should come into today's challenge, refreshed and ready to fire on all cylinders.
One recent addition to our skills kitbag was undertaking training in the Active Release Technique (ART). The technique has been developed in the USA over the last 15 years and is now used extensively throughout the NFL. Together with our Rhinos colleagues, we are now the first professional sports organisation in the UK to be trained in this technique.
In basic terms, this method of manipulating the muscles and other soft-tissues differs from other treatment types as it combines manual input with active movement from the patient. By placing our hands in precise anatomical positions and getting the patient to move we are able to release muscle tension , affect nerve function and assist the body to move without restrictions. We find the technique quick to administer, results are immediate and the effect can be profound. We are now using ART as our first-line approach to soft-tissue management. The players have given us positive feedback and we are hoping that as the season progresses, ART will help give us an edge in helping to keep your team fit to enjoy playing winning rugby!
Danny Paul, Joe Bedford, James Craig and Scott Freer are all progressing well following surgery and I will bring you up to speed next time.
2010 Winter Olympic Gold Medal Champion and Captain for the Dallas Stars Hockey Team