Summer has shifted into high gear. Training and racing in the heat requires constant attention to hydration and nutrition. Recovery during the high mileage, high intensity summer racing season, however, is often overlooked. Recovery is erroneously considered two or three days of rest or cross training. Recovery following an intense training block or race should include diligent attention to the tissues which carried us to the finish line: Muscles, fascia, tendons, and joints. Physical therapy treatments including active release recovery techniques will not only expedite your recovery, but also decrease pain and injury associated with running.
Active release is an effective way to reduce tension in muscle fibers oriented at oblique angles with one another. Intense, repetitive muscle contraction and relaxation as occurs in endurance running results in micro-trauma on a cellular level. Inflammation is a normal side effect of high intensity training and racing. If left untreated, cellular inflammation of muscle tissue leads to the formation of scar tissue between muscle fibers. This scar tissue (collagen fibers) restricts the elasticity of muscle tissue which leads to tightness, guarding, pain, and injury. Releasing the collagen scar tissue between muscle fibers with expedite recover and decrease the malaise associated with recovery.
Active release treatment is a functional means to release muscle tissue restrictions. Unlike static stretching, active release includes movement of a joint and its associated muscles through a functional range of motion. Although it is not a pleasant experience, the beneficial effects are evident immediately. Following a screen for underlying injury or compensatory movement patterns, the area of tenderness is palpated within a muscle. Once I have identified the restricted portion of the involved muscle, a longitudinal pressure is applied through the muscle. With the pressure applied, the patient is asked to actively move the associated joint. Active movement allows the involved muscle to contract and relax as the applied pressure releases the muscle tissue restriction. The process is repeated and the patient is instructed in a self-applied active release technique to self-treat the inflamed and/or restricted area until symptoms resolve.
Active release is effective in muscles prone to restrictive tightness following intense training or racing. The hamstrings, gastroc-soleus, quadriceps, tensor fascia late, iliopsoas, gluteal, tibialis posterior, and tibialis anterior muscle groups respond very well to active release treatment. If you are injured, are not bouncing back from your last training run, or are struggling to recover following a race, see a physical therapist that has the knowledge and skill to expedite your return to pain-free running. Call Sapphire Physical Therapy to find out if active release treatment may help you run and recover through the summer heat.
John Fiore, PT
(Collagen scar tissue formation within muscle tissue fibers)