What is Active Release Techniques?

I get a lot of questions about Active Release Techniques and how it is different to other treatments or massage methods.

For me personally, ART has made my work more fun and rewarding. Since I started working with it, the results I’ve had with my clients are amazing, and I love it..! You too?

Enjoy the read and please let me know if you have any questions!

Gustav Physio 




Active Release Techniques is the new golden standard for soft tissue management. It is a patented, state of the art, movement based soft tissue treatment system, developed for addressing soft tissue adhesions and dysfunctions. ART was developed by Dr. Michael Leahy, a doctor of chiropractic based in Colorado Springs, Colorado. His Aeronautical Engineering degree and experiences from the U.S. Air Force Academy were combined with his knowledge of human systems to find a better way to treat soft tissue injuries. The result was Active Release Techniques.

What is soft tissue?

In anatomy, soft tissue includes the tissues that connect, support, or surround other structures and organs of the body, not being hard tissue such as bone. Soft tissue includes muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, fascia and skin.

What is ART?

ART provides a way to diagnose and treat the underlying causes of cumulative trauma disorders that result in symptoms of numbness, tingling, burning and aching. ART is a type of manual hands-on therapy that corrects muscular and soft tissue problems caused by adhesion formation as a result of injury, overuse or cumulative trauma.

What is Cumulative Trauma?

Cumulative Trauma disorder (CTD), Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI), Repetitive Motion injury, are all used to describe problems that arise from the cumulative injury cycle (CIC). Some examples are Carpal tunnel syndrome, rotator cuff syndrome, chronic low back pain, whiplash injury and poor posture. CTD’s create physical signs and symptoms that are predictable and correctable using ART.

What is the Cumulative Injury Cycle (CIC)?

If you set a pendulum into motion, you don’t have to keep pushing it each time, it keeps going! Our bodies respond in much the same way. That’s why it hurts even after the stress is removed. The cycle can be started in three ways, Acute Injury, Repetitive Injury and constant Pressure or Tension. Left uncorrected, they can lead to inflammation, adhesions/fibrosis, weak and tense tissues and decreased circulation all in a specific progression called the Cumulative Injury Cycle.

How do I know if I have a problem?

Our bodies are very adaptable, they have to be to survive. Our bodies protect us from damage with pain signals and repair damaged areas with scar tissue. Very often, we think we are “better” after the pain goes away, however, what has happened is that the problem area “healed” with scar tissue. You probably will not be aware of the problem until a later date, maybe years from the original injury. You can recognize adhesion problems by loss of function. Loss of function could be a decrease in range of motion, weakness, stiffness, soreness and many other symptoms that many like to call “getting older”. More accurately it ’s “getting stuck to yourself”. Trigger points are also a great indicator that ART is the treatment you need!

What are Adhesions?

Our bodies contain special protein structures called connective tissue, also know as Fascia. This substance connects each part to other parts and the whole, very much like a flexible skeleton. When this tissue is healthy it is smooth and slippery, allowing the muscles, nerves, blood vessels or organs to move freely and function properly. Imagine a piece of tape, the smooth side is healthy fascia, the sticky side is scar tissue or unhealthy fascia. Rub the tape along your skin, both sides,to “feel” what an adhesion is like. The drag that you feel, the “pulling” sensation, is what an adhesion is like. These adhesions attach to muscles decreasing their ability to work properly. You really know when you have an adhesion on a nerve, you get many abnormal sensations like numbness, tingling or pain.

What’s the difference between ART and Massage?

They may look and sound similar, but the procedures are actually very different and the results they produce are very different. There are many types of massage, generally massage promotes relaxation and circulation. Neuromuscular Massage gets more specific but it does not fix the soft tissue and make it work properly. ART is protocol specific for the correction of adhesions & scar tissues. The main goal is to reestablish proper motion between muscles and fascia while reducing fibrous adhesions. There are over 600 different protocols to treat affected tissues and areas of the body. Anyone who has had ART can tell you, It’s NOT massage!

Why haven’t I heard of ART before?

In the Netherlands, ART is relatively unknown. However, worldwide there are about 20.000 providers.
Proficiency at ART takes a long time to develop. Training is hands on. The right touch is the most difficult aspect learn. It takes a strong commitment of time, effort and resources to become a provider. A few desire to do what it takes. Consequently, there is a small but growing number of providers that have been personally trained by Dr. Leahy. ART is rapidly becoming THE choice for soft tissue treatment.

If you are a healthcare provider and interested in ART, please don’t hesitate to contact me for more information.

How do I know if someone Provides Active Release?

“Active Release? Oh yeah, that’s like myofascial release right?, I do that.”

Many practitioners may say they do, when actually they do not. There are many types of treatments for soft tissue that other people call active release. To be certain if someone is ART certified, ask to see their certificate signed by Dr. Leahy, or visit activerelease.com/find-a-provider.asp

Who can benefit from ART?

Everyone can benefit from ART on one degree or another. If the problem is in the soft tissue, ART is helpfull. It doesn’t matter if you are a world class athlete or an office worker. It also doesn’t matter if you have an acute injury or an problem you have had for weeks, months, even years. ART has been proven effective in the management of all.

Can ART prevent me from having surgery?

Sometimes surgery is a clear cut case, a torn meniscus or ligament. Yet, in other times it is less clear cut. Chronic pain and joint trouble may actually be in the muscles and connective tissue and not in the joint. If you surgeon wants to “scope it ” and see what happens, you should consider ART. It is very common that the chronic symptoms disappear when proper function to a particular muscle or group of muscles has been restored.

If the problem is in the soft tissue instead of the joint, the surgery won’t do much good, so consider ART before surgery. Once you cut, that’s it, and you then have new scar tissue to deal with PLUS the original adhesions in the muscles that were there before. It makes sense doesn’t it?

What is the treatment like?

Active Release Techniques is noninvasive, very safe, and has virtually no side effects and comes with a record of very good results. Treatments can be uncomfortable during the movement phases as the scar tissue or adhesions “break up”. This is temporary and subsides after the treatment. It is common to feel a duplication of your symptoms during the treatment, a good indication that the problem has been identified. Patients report that “It hurts good”.

Will my condition or problem return after treatment?

Usually, the changes are permanent, but ultimately the answer depends on the patient compliance with recommendations for after care. “If you keep doing what your doing, you keep getting what your getting”. This is true for those with repetitive strain injuries (RSI) or cumulative trauma injuries. To not alter the patterns that got you injured in the first place will only cause the problem to recur. An important part of ART treatments is the provider’s recommendations to activity modification, stretching and exercises. Each individual is expected to commit to the suggestions for the best results.

What conditions can ART help?

The list is extensive. To name just a few conditions: Rotator Cuff (4 muscles that move and stabilize the shoulder), Tendinitis (runners shin splints, golfer’s elbow, tennis elbow), Bursitis (the body’s anti-friction device for tendons), muscle pulls or strains, frozen shoulder or adhesive capsulitis, knee pain (Problems with quadriceps and runners knee), muscle weakness, strength imbalances, poor flexibility, posture related complaints, chronic muscle or joint pain and stiffness, on and on…… If you think you have “tried it all and nothing has worked”, you probably have not had ART.

How does ART improve performance?

Performance of any task; golfing, typing and running faster can be improved significantly with ART. Restoring proper muscle function and movement enables the body to perform at its most efficient level. Adhesions create drag and tension which requires more energy and effort to accomplish a desired movement. Reaction times are also able to be improved as muscle function is improved. ART allows the body to do what you ask of it when you need it!

How do I make an appointment?

Just call us at +316 13955291 or book an appointment through the website. Our physiotherapist is fully credentialed in this powerful performance enhancing technique.

We look forward to your next appointment.

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