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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A professional mixed martial arts fighter, an avid golfer and a rock climber have one factor in common – all suffered from pain that often kept them from doing activities they love to do.
Then, they found that a form of soft tissue therapy known as Active Release Techniques made a difference. After just a few visits to Dr. Michael Maggio, an Albuquerque chiropractic physician who is a certified Active Release Techniques (ART) provider, and a chiropractic sports physician, they found relief they’d been seeking.
“The first week he did the (ART) I felt kind of different. I forgot I had pain,” says Ruchada Palmer, who can now be found on the golf course most any day.
By the second week, “I was able to bend over,” says the 62-year-old Sandia Park resident. Soon after, she was playing golf without pain, and able to do housework.
“It’s a miracle,” Palmer says. “I had so much pain.”
Maggio works with a number of different types of athletes, including distance runners, triathletes and, on a weekly basis, those at the University of New Mexico. This past summer he also worked with Isotopes baseball players and their athletic trainers.
“Albuquerque’s become quite the training area because of its altitude,” Maggio says. “Runners from all over the world come to train here prior to competition.”
He adds that lots of athletes are aware of Active Release Techniques, and when they’re training here, they seek it.
Kim Jew Photography photographer and professional mixed martial arts fighter Heather Clark, 31, says she’s been going to Maggio for ART for about three months.
“I have lower back pain and my body gets constant injuries,” she says. “I’m constantly pushing my body and getting hurt. ART has helped me to release the lower back pain.”
She adds that Maggio works on other pains throughout her body, as needed.
“I really think it’s amazing that it works so quickly,” Clark says.
Active Release Techniques is for anyone with a soft tissue injury – whether it’s muscle, tissue or ligaments.
And, Maggio says, the injury “doesn’t have to be sports-related.”
The 15-minute visit can be uncomfortable, though. The goal is to hold that muscle stationary to break down adhesions from repetitive trauma or micro trauma. Adhesions or scar tissue muscle becomes less efficient – the muscle fibers begin to tighten and shorten due to the injury, which leads to more inflammation. The Active Release Techniques attempt to break down adhesions and improve physiology so that there is more oxygen flowing to the muscle, he says.
“So it’s breaking a cycle that occurs because of the injury.”
Patients might feel soreness after their first visit but after that, they might notice a change in their pain level.
Once he started practicing it in his downtown office, he noticed that patients had a quicker recovery, were staying pain-free longer and getting back to their sport of choice more easily.
He’s treated neck pain, headaches, tennis elbows, tendonitis, sprain and strain injuries in any of the muscular structures. Maggio says the practice has also helped patients with early onset carpal tunnel syndrome, sciatica and lower back pain.
Often, Maggio treats more than just the painful area. He works on areas that are directly and indirectly connected, he says. For example, for arm pain, he may work on the wrist and biceps as well.
“We are treating the muscular component, the skeletal, the fascia … the connective tissue that holds the muscles together,” he says.
Patients often are suffering from repetitive stress strains, such as those from working at a keyboard, or someone who works in a factory or is doing too much yardwork.
How it works
Active Release Techniques, which was founded by Dr. P. Michael Leahy, has been around since the 1980s. It’s a practice that’s used internationally.
Maggio explains that ART uses more than 500 protocols to treat pain.
“Each is very specific to a pain pattern (or) area of injury, whether it’s acute or chronic-related injury,” he says.
During an initial visit, he identifies a pattern of pain, such as pain in the forearm from working at the keyboard.
“These are very common and can be treated very easily with Active Release Techniques,” he says.
Most problems can be resolved in about four to six treatments, depending on the pain pattern and how long it’s been going on. Some, he acknowledges, are more challenging.
“Some people are 100 percent better, some are not,” Maggio says. “I wish we could say we get everybody 100 percent better. But we get about 70 percent 100 percent better.”
ART doesn’t involve any medication. It’s all hands-on. He describes it as a movement-based soft tissue treatment. And, he emphasizes, it’s not massage. The treatment involves Maggio holding the tissue in specific ways with the patient moving the limb through a range of motion. The motion is what makes ART different from other bodywork. Each treatment lasts 15 to 20 minutes and costs $50.
At last, relief
Some of Maggio’s patients have exhausted all options of pain relief and are referred to him by pain management physicians.
Palmer had been suffering from back pain since December 2007 when she fell down on a ski trip. She says the pain was so constant, that she couldn’t sit still at her job. She retired from her post as a financial analyst with the U.S. Forest Service.
After trying numerous treatments for a deteriorated disc and arthritis in her joints she took her husband’s advice and sought out ART. Her pain improved after a few visits.
Heather MacInnes, 28, of Albuquerque, says she’s suffered from bouts of tendonitis for several years that kept her from rock climbing for months at a time.
With ART, she says, “I’ve never healed so fast.”