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If you’ve already heard good things about Active Release Techniques® (ART), you’re not alone. Over the past few years, growing numbers of physicians, therapists and trainers have turned to this advanced system of manual therapy to treat soft tissue injuries and improve performance in elite athletes. During this time, practitioners with the proper training and experience have reported success rates over 90%, even in cases involving chronic musculoskeletal problems that haven’t responded to other therapies. It’s not surprising that results like these have encouraged others to introduce ART more broadly outside the world of sports medicine.

But what exactly is ART?

ART is a proprietary approach to mobilizing injured soft tissues that have become “stuck together”, forming adhesions or dense scar tissue that can restrict movement and entrap nerves and blood vessels. Once these adhesions are broken up, layers of adjacent tissues that were once bound together are “released” and can move freely. This, in turn, relieves pain and improves function.

Taken together, Active Release Techniques® are different from other therapeutic massage methods in at least two important ways. First, they are part of a structured, systematic approach that includes over 500 distinct protocols designed to help the practitioner accurately evaluate a patient’s condition and apply the appropriate treatment to achieve a specific result. Second, they involve the patient and practitioner working together in a unique way. During each ART session, the physician or therapist will direct the patient to perform special movements while he or she simultaneously applies highly targeted tension or pressure to the affected area. It’s this combination of coordinated movements by the patient and precise medical massage by the practitioner that releases trapped soft tissues.

What makes ART so useful?

Active Release Techniques® are not only effective, they’re also remarkably flexible. And it’s this unique combination of effectiveness and flexibility that can make ART a great choice for treating a wide range of soft tissue-related conditions in a variety of situations. While it’s not necessary for patients to understand all the anatomy and physiology behind ART to benefit from it, there are three things patients should know as they’re considering treatment options:

  • ART isn’t just for athletes and sports injuries anymore. Many musculoskeletal conditions can be successfully treated using ART, including chronic back, neck and hip pain as well as carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, sciatica, shin splints, and recurring sprains and strains. A study performed at Vanderbilt University determined that “the results supporting the efficacy of ART have been significant enough to support the treatment as a viable alternative method for treating soft-tissue injuries and pain.”
  • Active Release Techniques® can also help relieve pressure on nerves and blood vessels that pass through the body’s muscles, ligaments, tendons, and fascia. Without appropriate treatment, such nerve or vascular entrapment can cause symptoms such as numbness, tingling, and loss of function as well as edema, varicosity, and poor oxygen saturation.
  • In many cases, ART is even more effective in treating soft tissue injuries when combined with chiropractic care and a structured exercise program. A chiropractic physician who is also trained and experienced in using Active Release Techniques® can work with you to develop a comprehensive treatment plan that will help you recover more quickly and more completely.

In addition to being a proprietary system of manual therapy, ART is also professionally demanding. This means that practitioners must receive extensive training and be certified by the organization founded by ART developer Dr. P. Michael Leahy in order to earn the necessary credentials to practice Active Release Techniques®. They must also maintain their credentials through a rigorous system of continuing education and recertification.


Additional Resources

The Gold Standard in Soft Tissue Treatment. http://www.activerelease.com/

ART for the Rest of Us. http://www.mensjournal.com/health-fitness/health/art-for-the-rest-of-us-20130327

The Techniques Behind Active Release Therapy. http://online.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887324640104578165372104222126

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