Active Release Techniques [ART]

What Is Active Release Technique (ART)?

ART was first patented by P. Michael Leahy, a certified chiropractic sports physician who created his signature method to treat patients dealing with a wide array of chronic pains or injuries. ART is similar to deep tissue massage techniques and myofascial release (although it definitely has its differences) because it works by manipulating soft tissue, thereby reducing stress placed on joints and nerves.

The conditions that ART is used to help treat naturally, often without the use of medications, are those that affect fascia (connective tissue), major muscle groups, tendons and ligaments. Most are the result of overused muscles, which contribute to scar tissue formation, tears, pulls, strains and inflammation. The goal of active release technique is to restore normal mobility and “glide” between muscular tissue and nerves.  It can also help push joint fluid throughout the body and stimulate the lymphatic system, which helps lower inflammation.

Some of the problems most commonly relieved through ART treatments include:

ART Techniques: How Active Release Works

The core benefit of ART is preventing and breaking up dense scar tissue, also called adhesions. Adhesions limit the normal range of motion of joints and muscles because they cause abnormal binding between muscle groups, are very tough and are inflexible compared to healthy tissue.

The reason that adhesions form is to bind injured tissues and keep them stable — however, the adhesions act like a strong “glue” and can often compress or pinch nerves. Nerves sometimes become entrapped by scar tissue, which causes trigger points and pain to develop. The more that scar tissue forms, the more joints or tendons become strained and nerves become compressed.

According to the Active Release Techniques website, soft tissue manipulations address several components related to scar tissue formation:

  • acute injuries, including tears or collisions that can happen during exercise or sports
  • micro-trauma, which is the gradual wear-down of tissue that’s often caused from aging and inflammation
  • hypoxia, which results from tissue not receiving enough nutrients and oxygen

Who Benefits Most from Active Release Technique Sessions?

What are some signs that you might be experiencing adhesion/scar tissue accumulation and therefore can benefit from ART? These include:

  • stiffness in your neck, elbow, hands, knees or back, sometimes associated with bursitis or tendonitis
  • increased pain or throbbing when exercising
  • reduced flexibility and limited range of motion
  • loss of muscle strength
  • inflamed joints or frequent joint pains
  • signs of nerve damage, such as tingling, numbness and weakness

ART treatment is a unique protocol that consists of very precise, targeted movements, most of which are done by the patient. Each ART session is different and custom-created to treat the patient’s problem depending on the location and severity of the symptoms. Over 500 different hand motions are used by trained ART practitioners to evaluate a patient’s condition, locate areas of tightness that signify tissue damage, and then to help the patient move in a way that releases the affected tissue through “directed tension and very specific movements.”

ART practitioners are commonly chiropractors or other trained health care providers who become qualified by receiving an ART certification. Using this patented formula, Dr. Leahy (the creator or ART) found that he was able to consistently resolve over 90 percent of his patients’ problems naturally. Once the underlying tissue problem is addressed, patients are less likely to experience other injuries going forward and can return to regular preventative practices like exercising, stretching and performing myofascial release.  Dr. Hubley has been practicing ART since 1999 with the inception of her residency and practice.

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