I am often asked how Active Release Technique® (ART) differs from other forms of soft tissue work, such as massage or trigger point therapy. The not-so-simple answer is that ART® is a patented form of manual therapy that uses active movement and therapist-applied tension in order to relieve pain and dysfunction of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, and nerves. In order to determine if ART® would be an effective treatment for a particular injury, it is helpful to understand how ART® helps alleviate the dysfunction of an injury.
While some injuries are caused by a traumatic injury, such as a fall or tear, a large majority of injuries result from an accumulation of small traumatic injuries. These types of injuries can include repetitive motion, continued lifting of objects, or even poor body posture throughout the day. The small injuries resulting from this type of activity are often referred to as repetitive strain or accumulative trauma injuries. The affected tissues change and don’t work as effectively as healthy tissues. These changes often result in decreased oxygen getting to a muscle or tendon, which changes the tissue structure and how the muscle works. This leads to the eventual formation of scar tissue in and around the muscle that will then bind to surrounding structures such as fascia and nerves. This binding of structures can cause muscles to become shorter, range of motion to decrease, and pain can occur with everyday movement and activity. This will eventually lead to decreased use and increased pain of the affected area. Pain and discomfort build gradually and can eventually cause a person to avoid an activity altogether.
So how can ART® help decrease the binding of muscles and other structures to help improve motion and decrease pain? ART® works by applying tension and force to the tight and injured area, then having the patient perform a specific movement in order to release tension and improve motion of the desired area. Moving the muscle through the range of motion while tension is being applied allows for breaking and loosening of the adhesions. This results in improved motion and decreased pain of the affected area. When used in conjunction with biomechanics training and active strengthening, many patients often feel an improvement of strength and body awareness within only a few visits.
ART® not only differs from traditional soft tissue work in how it is applied, but it also requires practitioners to undergo a rigorous certification process. This process involves several days of study followed by hands-on testing that requires a 90% score in order to pass. In order to maintain a certification in ART®, practitioners must also be recertified annually. This allows a practitioner to constantly hone and refine his or her skills. ART® is not a cookie cutter approach to therapy. It has over 500 protocols that provide a specific treatment strategy to the area of injury.
Over the past few years, several scientific studies have been performed to determine the effectiveness of ART® treatment on certain ailments. Current research has shown ART® to be an effective treatment approach for pain and dysfunction of the hamstring, carpal tunnel, hip pain, and even turf toe. Currently there are many other studies being performed on other body parts and ailments.
If Active Release Technique® sounds like the piece that you are missing in your therapy, give one of our offices a call to set up an initial evaluation with a certified ART® Provider.
If you have questions about ART®, please email Chris Contois.
George, J., Tunstal, A. C., Tepe, R.E., and Skaggs, C. The Effects of Active Release Technique® on Hamstring Flexibility: A Pilot Study. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 2006: 29(3): 224-227.
Leahy, P.M. Active Release Technique, Soft Tissue Management Systems for Upper Extremity 2nd Ed. Colorado Sprins: Active Release Techniques, 2008 pages 8-24.
Pajaczkowski, J.A. Mimicking of turf toe; Myofasopathy of the first dorsal interosseous muscle treated with ART®. Journal of Canadian Chriopr Assoc 2003; 47(1): 28-32
Spina, A. External coax saltans (snapping hip) treated with Active Release Technique®: A case report. Journal Canadian Chiropr Assoc 2007; 51(1): 23-29