Active Release Technique® (ART)

Lingering pain from an injury—or an injury that is slow to heal—can be one of the most challenging types of pain to treat. Whether you’re experiencing pain due to slow-healing injuries or stubborn pain that is limiting your range of motion, Active Release Technique (ART) is one solution that can help. Here’s what you should know.

What is Active Release Technique?

Active Release Technique (ART) uses specific manipulations and movements to identify and break up scar tissue in your body.

When an injury occurs, we want healing to occur as quickly as possible. However, sometimes the healing process leaves scar tissue that can cause pain or limit mobility. This leads to a vicious cycle where lack of movement causes even more stiffness and pain with movement. ART helps break that cycle.

In cases where injuries are slow to heal, Active Release Technique can also increase blood flow to the injured area. This also helps speed healing.

How does Active Release Technique work?

When muscles are overused, the tissues of the body can get confused. They begin to “cling” to other tissues and nerves that need to move freely in order to function properly. Major muscle groups might begin to connect firmly to the fascia (connective tissue) that surrounds them. This binding creates adhesions. Adhesions (think of “adhesive,” as in glue or tape) lead to shorter and weaker muscles, tendonitis, or entrapped nerves.

Once adhesions occur, movement can become challenging and painful. With less movement, ligaments and tendons also begin to stiffen and shorten. As this occurs, pain with movement can increase.

Active Release Technique is an extremely safe and effective form of treatment for soft tissue problems and injuries. This technique uses a hands-on manual therapy approach to lengthen muscles and release adhesions to tissues and nerves. Your doctor applies precisely-directed tension as you complete very specific movements to move your muscles.

Active Release Technique benefits

Improper posture, faulty biomechanics, compensation injuries, muscle strain, and ligament sprain are some of the conditions that lead to adhesions, scar tissue, and nerve entrapments.

As a result, some of the following pain conditions may cause or be a result of adhesions:

art for pain

What can I expect during my appointment?

Your first step is a physical exam. Your doctor will identify the muscles, ligaments, and nerves that are causing pain. This exam does not require changing into a gown, but wear clothes that are light and easy to move in.

Next, your doctor will perform a specific set of movements as you engage and release your muscles. These will vary, depending on your condition. For example, if you experience adhesions that cause lower back pain, you might move into a twist while your doctor applies pressure on the affected area. Neck pain might be addressed by your doctor applying pressure as you gently move your head back and forth.

There are over 500 specific treatments unique to Active Release Technique. Many of these can be combined to produce significant relief after just a few treatments.

Whatever the target area, your soft tissues are encouraged to slide over one another. This movement not only breaks up adhesions and scar tissue but also separates any nerves that are bound up in the painful area.

While treatments can be intense, it’s important to work with your doctor and let them know when the sensations are too much. They can modify their pressure to make it more tolerable.