Active Release Technique (ART)
ART is a new and highly successful approach to diagnosis and treatment of muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and fascia, collectively known as soft tissue. Virtually half of human body weight is soft tissue, so it’s no surprise that it is often a source of pain and dysfunction. ART can be used to treat almost any soft tissue structure in the body.
ART is very effective for conditions like low back pain, neck pain, elbow tendinosis, rotator cuff tendinosis, knee pain, heel pain, shin splints and carpal tunnel syndrome.
ART represents a change in the basic understanding of soft tissue injury giving the doctor the insight necessary to identify and correct the root cause of a problem. For example, in cases of carpal tunnel syndrome, the doctor may check for injury along the entire length of the nerve, including the forearm, arm and neck. This allows for identification and treatment of all involved areas, often resulting in a complete and quick resolution.
When a muscle, tendon or ligament is torn the healing process involves the creation of scar tissue. This is necessary to connect and bind the torn tissue. Unfortunately, the healing scar tissue often sticks to surrounding structures (think of it as glue) entrapping nerves, limiting motion, strength, speed, and over-working healthy tissue. Scar tissue can also result from overuse. Overuse causes the tissues to increase in tension; this decreases the blood supply and releases free radicals. Free Radicals attract the cells that produce scar tissue. Scar tissue can lead to poor posture and impair athletic pursuits.
ART treatment is hands-on, meaning that treatment is done exclusively with the doctors hands. Therefore there are no unwanted side effects from medication or surgical complications.
ART doctors are trained to identify areas of scar tissue by the way it feels. It usually feels like a tight area in the soft tissue with an altered texture and decreased movement. Conceptually ART is very simple. However, proper application requires a very high level of skill and experience. It works like this:
1. The doctor identifies the area of scar/adhesion by feeling it.
2. The muscle, tendon, ligament, or nerve is shortened by placing the patient in an appropriate position.
3. The doctor places contact (finger or thumb) on the scar, creating tension.
4. The patient moves the body part lengthening the structure. This generates tension that breaks down the scar and restores normal movement, tension, texture, and function to the tissues, reducing pain and improving performance.
Why doesn’t the pain go away by itself?
The body has no mechanism to reduce scar tissue naturally. It requires treatment. Although the body can sometimes adapt to and tolerate a certain amount of scar tissue it will not function optimally and can cause further injury.
Why haven’t I heard of ART before?
ART is relatively new, although many professional athletes have been using it for years. Word of ART’s effectiveness is rapidly spreading and the number of people qualified to perform it is steadily increasing.
What makes ART different from massage or myofascial release?
Several factors make ART different. First, with over 300 separate protocols, ART is far more specific than other treatments. It is essential to treat not only the right tissue, but the exact area of scar within the tissue. The difference between success and failure can be measured in millimeters. Second, ART uses the movement of the patient to increase tension on the scar tissue. This is the most effective way to release the tissue. Third, ART provides a better understanding of how soft tissue becomes injured. This drastically improves treatment strategies and results.
Do I have to keep coming back?
Once scar tissue is treated the tissues are usually as healthy as their pre-injury state. In most people the injury does not return. However, unless the activity that caused the scar tissue to form in the first place is modified it can return. Therefore, some people do require occasional follow up visits.
Can anyone perform ART?
No. Training consists of a series of post-graduate classes as well as written and practical testing. It generally takes a minimum of two years experience to become proficient with the protocols.
“ ART is nothing short of amazing.I don’t think there’s an athlete anywhere who couldn’t benefit from it.
Muscle Media 2000, 1998
“...compared with similar studies in the literature (ART) was superior.”
Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation 1999
“ART seems fast, safe, and remarkably effective for injuries to muscles and connective tissues.”
Men’s Health 1999