Fuel Your Recovery- Active Release Therapy and Graston Technique

I have talked about the importance of massage, compression, and recovery boots, and today I am going to talk about something a little more specific that you may or may not have heard of/used (other than when I bring it up), but something that is SO important for runners, especially if you have anything that is bothering you.

I have mentioned before that I think active release played a critical part in my hamstring rehab. When you have something that is bugging you it is definitely worth paying for (and I do!). I am not receiving any compensation to write about Dr. Mike, I just believe in it that much.

Elite runner Tina Muir describes the importance of active release and graston technique as therapy for runners, especially when training for a marathon to keep injuries at bay, and help your muscles handle the stresses of training.

I love that with active release, if you have a muscle that is causing you problems, this is one treatment you can go to, and immediately feel a difference when you get off the table. It often makes the pain go away instantly!

I was lucky to have a certified active release specialist in college, Ron would work on my various aches and pains, and I am even more thankful now to not only have a certified specialist, but to have one of THE BEST there is. Dr Mike Sullivan holds the highest certification for active release, and even teaches the technique at seminars around the country! He works with a lot of NFL players, and many other collegiate and professional athletes, and the University of Kentucky teams; I am thankful he is here in Lexington.

I thought it would be helpful to show you a little more about what ART involves. You can read about the science of what it is HERE. To put it into my own words, ART with Dr Mike involves telling him the general muscle area that is tight, and he will feel for minuscule differences within the muscle, until he finds the source of the tightness. He will then press down hard into that area with his thumb, and move the muscle through its range of motion.

I am not gonna lie, it hurts, sometimes pretty bad.

There were times with my hamstring where it hurt so bad I wanted to scream, but after a 10 minute treatment on that area, it felt significantly different. When you have some major damage, as I did with my hamstring, it would tighten up again after the next run, but I am positive that without his therapy, I would not have made it to the start line for the Chicago marathon, and I would still be dealing with it. Most other elite runners I talk to who have had hamstring issues have had them for many years, and they never really go away. Mine has, and I am so thankful for Dr. Mike for that…..he is also the one who loaned me his Recovery Boots!

So, I have a treat for you today, you can get to see another glimpse into the world of Tina Muir by watching Dr. Mike work on me. Yes, we were a little awkward, but I thought it would be useful for you to see him working and explain more about what it is, and what he commonly finds with runners. We weren’t really sure where this was going when we filmed it, but hopefully you find it useful 🙂

Dr Mike is a triathlete (half and full ironman races), so he really understands runners, which is important. There is almost nothing worse than going to someone for help who does not care for runners at all!

To me it is worth paying for a treatment where you see instantaneous results, this is the closest thing we have to a “quick fix”, but like I said, if you have something really wrong, it is unlikely to go away if you do not keep going to get it worked on if you continue to run. However, if you are having any kind of muscle pain, and you have a certified active release therapist near you, I would recommend it 100%. Like I said, there are no quick fixes when it comes to coming back from Injuries and I know if can be tough to realize that. Which is why I gathered up some experts on this subject and have them as a part of my Coming Back from Injury Podcast Series. I have found a lot of incredible information from them and I know you will too.Graston Technique

Dr Mike also performs graston on muscles that need it, including recently my quad/IT band was a little tight. It leaves some bruising, but this works wonders too. I talked about it a few years ago when I realized its importance when training for the Philadelphia marathon.

This is another form of therapy I would recommend for muscle issues, but make sure you have a specialist do this; they whip out some pretty scary looking tools, and it is not something you should EVER trust someone who has not been certified to do….you could do some serious damage!

Hopefully you enjoyed seeing a little peak into my therapy, and what helped my hamstring recover fully (as well as keeping me healthy at the moment). If you have aches and pains that are being stubborn, it is time you seek out your closest ART provider.

Have you ever used active release or graston? Was that video helpful/interesting? 

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  • carla birnberg
    March 11, 2015 5:06 am

    SUPER INTERESTING. I did airrosti before. I need to try it again for my … everything.

  • I hate going to a doctor who doesn’t treat athletes or understand them! I’ve never had ART or graston, but I know so many people who have found it helpful. Thanks for sharing the video 🙂

  • I just discovered this and was going to someone semi-regulary to help with my hamstring. It’s amazing how everything is so connected! She would be digging into my shoulder to release the tension in my hip before moving to the hamstring. It’s brutally painful (although I didn’t have such bruises!! you poor thing!!) but helped immediately. It’s super pricey so I stopped going but if the pain returns to the level it was, I know just where to go! Great post!!

  • I love ART. That is mainly what my PT did for me, but I have had Graston done as well. I basically do my own ART (as best as can be said that I do it on myself) now. I wish I had the money to continue going to Melissa and React! They are amazing.

  • Lisa@runningoutofwine
    March 11, 2015 7:00 am

    I’ve been getting ART for years and I love it! I’ve also had graston a few times as well. i have had alot of success with both of these recovery tools!

  • Heather @fitncookies
    March 11, 2015 7:09 am

    This sounds so great. I have never had it done but have heard so many great things about it. I’m so glad it helps you to perform better!

  • I have had a hamstring issue for the last 3 years! We have an ART therapist nearby so you convinced me to check it out.

  • Active Release I have done in the past and yes it really helped me. I tried Graston with my foot and it hurt like a **** but I am not sure it did anything. I ended up ditching my Dr. bc I thought he was a quack. It is really important to go to the right person for these types of therapies or they can do more hurt than help. Nice post!

  • Done them both and have liked the results of both. The key is to find the right practitioner like your Dr. Mike–skilled hands make all the difference! I actually wrote an article on these techniques, plus dry needling, for the Daily Burn a while back: http://dailyburn.com/life/fitness/graston-technique-dry-needling-pt/

  • Julie Wunder
    March 11, 2015 8:50 am

    Wow! Really interesting. It is so cool to see what you are going through.

  • I’m a big fan of ART. My physio uses it on me when I have issue areas and I find it really helps.
    I’ve never had graston though – not sure if it’s that known about in the UK or this could be my woeful lack of awareness!! Glad your tight spots are better 🙂

  • I bet it’s so painful, but in a good way! I can only imagine how much better you feel afterwards. Cool to watch!

  • Michele Rosen
    March 11, 2015 10:33 am

    This sounds pretty amazing, especially to be able to feel that difference right away. I have muscle tightness here and there, all runners do, but when I’m training it’s really stepped up and the foam roller can only do so much. Thanks for all the info!

  • Awesome video! 🙂 I haven’t officially tried ART but I am amazed at what a good massage therapist can do with assisted stretching and massage. I keep trying to talk my hubby into going to massage school so that he can get trained to fix my achy muscles, but so far he’s not going for it.

  • I could use. Mike in mg life.his therapy sounds like deep tissue massaging and trigger point therapy*

  • Oh the “hurt so good” pain that makes you scream, but you know that if you can just get through it will all be worth it…LOL! I have felt that with massages and I will be cursing under my breath, but a few hours later…pure bliss. Loving all these educational posts…very helpful and informative!

  • It looks painful, but you have inspired me to look up a specialist in my area.. I’m tired of having little pain here and there that stop me from training to my full potential. I am on my way to my Chiropractor, who also happens to be the Men’s US Olympic Water Polo Coach, so I trust him.. maybe he will have a the name of someone for me. Thank you for sharing Tina!

  • I have done graston and ART before it it is AMAZING how well it work. SOOO painful, but the results are amazing!

  • I’ve never used active release (or Graston) butI keep hearing about them and think I would benefit from trying!!!

  • Martina Di Marco
    March 11, 2015 4:42 pm

    ART is what allowed me to run NYCM in Nov 2014. I had strained my right hip flexor in August and, for over a month, my right leg was basically useless and my left leg would do all the running. After a few miles, it would become so stiff from over-compensating that running any further was not only painful, but impossible. I tried EVERYTHING and ART is the only thing that really worked. It is a bit expensive, but going once per week for almost 2 months solved the problem for me. I wish I could still go for “maintenance,’ but it’s currently too much of a luxury for me 🙁

  • My sports med dr here does Graston- he used it on me in my last marathon cycle pre baby and you’re right- ouch! But I totally believe it helps.

  • Paige Callahan
    March 11, 2015 8:59 pm

    I love graston and ART! I have been getting it done for a couple years now and I have noticed so much improvement when I have it done. Right now I am getting it for my plantar fasciitis and tight calves

  • Yep, we love ART too.. well it’s a hurt so good kind of love! and SO NEEDED

  • Great post. I’m interested in different types of massage and recovery! I’d probably scream during this, I already have what I call hot spots on my shoulders and back from tightness!

  • So interesting Tina. I’ve never tried ART but I’ve read a lot about the benefits.

  • Jenn @ www.foxrunsfast.com
    March 12, 2015 9:31 am

    Wish I had folks around me here in RVA to help recommend someone for this! I am hesitant to go to a provider I don’t know/haven’t heard anything about but I may have to give it a shot. I’ve heard such great things about both ART and Graston technique. Thanks for sharing, Tina!

  • Ah the part where he is doing your achilles and you’re kneeling…had that done last year when I had tendonitis and it was killer! So painful. but I do wish I could get it done regularly. It actually really helped with my shin issues too.

  • I’m a big believer in the ART technique! My neck and shoulders were just a mess until I found this technique. It has made all the difference in the world!

  • Very interesting!! I haven’t tried either technique, but I will for the next marathon cycle. Will start researching good people now.
    GREAT post as always Tina!! Thank you!!

  • Sarah @RunFarGirl
    March 17, 2015 6:47 am

    I know these two things would be so helpful. My chiro does a little ART, but I’d like to find someone who specializes in it and graston who are local.

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