ART, which stands for “Active Release Technique” is a type of soft tissue massage that was created and patented by P. Michael Leahy. It treats problems with muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and fascia. It focuses on relieving nerve trigger points and tight muscles. By manipulating the soft tissue, less stress will be placed on the joints and nerves, which can help relieve a wide range of chronic pains and injuries.
The goal of ART is to restore the mobility to the muscles so they can move easier around nerves. It also stimulates the lymphatic system and lowers inflammation by moving joint fluid around the body. Many times, overused muscles can develop scar tissue, tears, pulls, strains and inflammation. Specifically, when a muscle is overused, the tissue can transform by either not getting enough oxygen, accumulating small micro-tears, or through an acute condition, such as a pull or tear. All of these can cause the production of scar tissue, which binds the tissue and prohibits it from moving freely. As a result, the muscle is weaker and shorter, which may entrap nerves or cause tendonitis. This results in pain and reduced range of motion. Some possible symptoms of scar tissue in the body are neck stiffness, stiffness in the elbow, hands, knees or back, increased pain when exercising, loss of muscle strength, inflamed or painful joints, reduced flexibility, and signs of nerve damage, such as tingling or numbness.
During an ART session, the therapist will use tension combined with patient movements to treat the affected areas. There are over 500 treatment protocols used to correct the issues of the individual clients. The protocols use precise, targeted movements, and each treatment is individualized for the patient. ART works to actively release and break up the scar tissue to restore range of motion, increase flexibility, improve performance, and prevent running injuries. Some of the conditions that can be alleviated by ART are lower back pain, tension headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, plantar fasciitis, knee problems, frozen shoulder, bursitis, and sciatica. ART is different from a massage because a massage may decrease pain by utilizing pressure points, but it won’t break up the scar tissue in your body.
ART is an aggressive therapy, and it may feel painful during the treatment. The amount of sessions needed will vary by condition and range in the frequency needed. Make sure that the practitioner is a certified ART provider, and they can be found on the ART website.
by Denise Groothuis