The better massage for pain

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When chiropractors treat athletes with the Active Release Technique (ART), they apply pressure on specific parts of the body while the patient moves the nearby joints through their full range of motion, says Ian Nurse, DC, owner of Wellness in Motion in Boston. In typical massages, the body lies still, but pairing the therapy with movement maximizes the amount of tissue treated, he explains.


Repetitive motions (like biking, running, rowing, or boxing) can cause soft tissue in the body to become overworked and to develop scar tissue, Nurse says. Scar tissue is mostly a good thing: It signals the body’s efforts to heal injured areas.

But it can also put a clamp on surrounding muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, and nerves, leading to pain and restricting your range of motion, he says. ART works these knots of scar tissue, thereby breaking them up. Some athletes see relief from just one session while others need to go a few times before they see results.


A certified professional can give you the official treatment, but DIY techniques are also handy: You can alleviate pain caused by knots of scar tissue on your own by rolling a ball over sore muscles (or massaging them with your fist) while taking the nearby joints through their full range of motion. For example, for hamstring pain, apply pressure to the muscle with a ball or fist (knuckles up), then extend and bend your leg while holding the pressure, Nurse says.