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What is Active Release Technique and What Conditions Can it Treat?



Active Release Technique (ART) is a soft tissue massage and manipulation technique invented and patented by P. Michael Leahy. Dr. Leahy is a chiropractor located in Colorado Springs. He used his aeronautical engineering and anatomy background to bring innovations to the treatment of soft tissue problems. ART is often used in the treatment of muscles, ligaments, fascia, nerves, and tendons.

ART treatment is different from conventional massage or muscle work in that the movements are specifically directed to ensure smooth and painless motion of tissue. Over 500 protocols are in place for treating each specific muscle, ligament, tendon, nerve, and fascia in the body.

This system is designed to treat the entire structure of the body as a whole, rather than one particular region. The active muscle motion permits the practitioner to dissolve any adhesions that can develop through acute injury, overuse, or constant pressure.

ART is most typically used in treating conditions caused by scar tissue and adhesions in overtaxed muscles. According to ART, as adhesions increase, muscles decrease in length and become weaker, muscle and joint motion is impaired, and nerves may become compressed. This results in tissues suffering from pain, reduced mobility, and decreased blood supply.

ART can treat many types of conditions, like back pain, headaches, tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, TMJ, shin splints, carpal tunnel syndrome, and sciatica. Its goal is to promote the restoration of smooth tissue movement and to free any trapped blood vessels or nerves.

The goal is achieved by removing adhesions in tissues through the application of specific techniques. Adhesions can be caused by injuries, constant pressure or tension, and repetitive motion. ART helps remove the dysfunction and pain found with these adhesions.

During an ART treatment, a practitioner evaluates the texture, mobility, and tightness of the soft tissue with his or her hands. Their goal is to loosen or remove any fibrous adhesions, using stretching motions towards the lymphatic and venous flow. Sometimes the opposite direction is used.

The practitioner performs the movement of the patient’s tissue in the first three levels of ART treatment. However, in level four, the patient will be required to manipulate the soft tissue in specific ways, as the practitioner provides pressure.

ART treatment compares very favorably to other related therapies in terms of costs. ART practitioners include chiropractors, massage therapists, medical doctors, and physical therapists.

Once you have been successfully treated for your condition, there is a low rate of recurrence provided you follow the practitioner’s recommendations regarding exercise/stretches and lifestyle modifications.

Dr. Leahy experienced a recurrence rate as low as 4% in his carpal tunnel study. Half of those had not been faithfully following his recommendations for exercises.

Only a qualified ART provider can determine whether ART can help with your condition. To become skilled in ART requires about two years of patient care once a provider has taken the required courses and passed the examinations. Providers are required to attend annual seminars that update them on the most recent advances in the ART field.