Back pain is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. It can lead to people not being able to work and it can greatly reduce their quality of life. Unfortunately, some forms of back pain can be very difficult to treat and can become chronic.
Chiropractic care and Active Release Technique (ART) can be a useful treatment option for people who are hoping to reduce their back pain.
What causes back pain?
Back pain can come in two forms: acute and chronic. Acute back pain only lasts for a few days or weeks and usually gets better on its own or with a small amount of treatment. Approximately 20% of people with acute back pain end up with chronic back pain, which lasts from 12 weeks and much longer. (https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Low-Back-Pain-Fact-Sheet).
The most common form of back pain is in the lower back. This is where the lumbar region is found, which is the group of muscles, tendons, ligament, and vertebrae that are responsible for supporting the weight of the upper body (https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Low-Back-Pain-Fact-Sheet).
Due to the amount of strain and pressure this area is under, injuries, strains, and sprains are very common.
Chiropractic care and back pain
Chiropractic care is a popular and effective treatment method for back pain and is one of the treatments recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Specifically, they recommend a course of manual therapy that includes spinal manipulation, spinal mobilization, or massage (https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/cg88/documents/press-releases2).
Chiropractic care can help to treat back pain if it is caused by a misalignment of the spine and in those cases, it does seem to work, but back pain isn’t always caused by a problem with the spine. It can also result from problems with the muscles, tendons, or ligaments in the back. In these cases, additional treatments may be necessary to reduce pain. One such treatment that many chiropractic clinicians now offer is Active Release Technique (ART).
Active release technique and back pain
The main goal of Active Release Technique (ART) is to break up adhesions and scar tissue in the muscles, ligaments, tendons, and connective tissues. Micro tears can form in any of these through injury, repetitive use, or sustained contraction (e.g. sitting at a desk for too long). Over time, adhesions (bundles of scar tissue) can form as the body heals these micro-tears. This scar tissue can cause muscles to tighten and become stiff, trap nerves, and cause pain and a reduced range of movement.
In ART the clinician with their hands places tension on the affected area and then the patient is guided to shorten and lengthen the muscle. The pressure plus the movement breaks up the adhesions and scar tissue and increases blood flow to the area. In the lower back, the most common muscle to need ART treatment is the psoas muscle which connects the spine to the hip and helps to keep the spine aligned when sitting (https://www.lifemark.ca/services/art).
When people with back pain were treated with ART, they reported decreased pain scores and decreased pain after treatment was provided (http://www.jptrs.org/journal/view.htmlvolume=2&number=1&spage=27#:~:text=Low%20back%20pain%20is%20a,the%20scar%20tissue%20and%20adhesions.).
Active release technique can be an effective treatment for back pain that is caused by adhesions (bundles of scar tissue) in the muscles, ligaments, tendons, or connective tissue in the back. This scar tissue could form through injury, repetitive use, or sustained contraction.