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About ART

Active Release Techniques (ART)

Understanding Active Release Techniques (ART)Active Release Techniques (ART) has become one of most sought after soft-tissue treatments in the world today. ART is often your best bet for resolving chronic soft-tissue injuries.

“ART is a patented, advanced, movement-based massage system, which is extremely effective for accurately locating the cause of soft-tissue conditions and effectively resolving (or greatly improving) overuse and strain/sprain conditions.”

The definition of Active Release Techniques®(ART®) has changed and expanded over time as ART evolved. Essentially, ART is a non-invasive, hands-on, soft-tissue technique that simultaneously locates and breaks up scar tissue (which is the primary cause of pain, stiffness, weakness, numbness, and physical dysfunctions that are typically associated with soft-tissue injuries). ART combines motions performed by the patient with a hands-on technique that releases the adhesions between tissue layers. This process restores mobility and relative motion to the soft-tissue layers, increases circulatory function, and increases neurological function by breaking and releasing restrictive adhesions.

Active Release Techniques (ART) is classified as a multi- disciplinary procedure that is practiced by numerous practitioners from a wide range of medical professions and disciplines, including Chiropractors, Physiotherapists, Massage Therapists, Kinesiologists, Occupational Therapists, and Sports Physicians. Click on the following tabs for more information about ART.


What is Active Release Techniques (ART)?

Active Release Techniques is a combination of both ART 
(pun intended) and science. In my opinion, ART provides practitioners with an incredible tool and methodology for effectively addressing the soft-tissue injury epidemic that is rapidly overtaking our health care system.

As a hands-on technique, ART provides the means for both diagnosing and treating the underlying causes of both cumulative trauma disorders and soft-tissue conditions. These disorders often result in symptoms of weakness, numbness, tingling, burning, aching, and a variety of other physical dysfunctions.

The goal of ART is to:

  • Restore optimal tissue texture, tension, and movement.
  • Restore the strength, flexibility, function, and relative 
translation between soft-tissue layers.
  • Release any soft-tissue restrictions, entrapped nerves, 
restricted circulatory structures, or lymphatic restrictions.

ART is based upon a thorough understanding of anatomy, physiology, and biomechanics. It is easily supported by science and logic. As a dynamic technique, its practitioners are actively involved in finding new and better ways of improving upon ART’s already impressive outcomes.

ART is a Hands-On Technique

Dr. Abelson preforming ART for carpel tunnelART is a ‘hands-on’ treatment and requires a great deal of tactile sensitivity in order to locate, treat, and feel the release of soft-tissue restrictions and nerve impingements. During any ART treatment, the practitioner must literally feel soft-tissue structures as they translate and glide over and through each other. For example, ART requires the practitioner to feel a nerve as it translates or moves through a muscle or other soft tissue.

To effectively treat soft-tissue restrictions, injuries, and chronic pain, ART alters the tissue structures by breaking up the restrictive cross-fibre adhesions (which cause adjacent tissues to stick together) and restores normal function to the soft-tissue areas.

ART protocols allow soft-tissue layers (that were once restricted) to move freely over each other, and help to correct a wide range of myofascial and nerve entrapment syndromes.

ART – History & Certification

Dr. Brian Abelson interviews Dr. Michael Leahy about the history of Active Release Techniques and the ART certification process. Dr. Leahy is the developer and founder of Active Release Techniques.

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How do overuse injuries occur?

Overused muscles (and other injured soft tissues) can cause changes to your body in three important ways:

  • Cause acute injuries (pulls, tears, collisions, etc.).
  • Accumulate small tears
  • (micro-trauma).
  • Reduce oxygen flow to cells (hypoxia).

Each of these changes causes your body to produce tough, dense scar tissue in the affected area. This scar tissue binds up and ties down tissues that need to move freely. As scar tissue builds up:

  • Muscles become shorter and weaker.
  • Tension on tendons causes tendonitis.
  • Nerves can become trapped.

This can result in reduced ranges of motion, loss of strength, and pain. With trapped nerves, you may also feel tingling, numbness, shooting pains, burning sensations, weakness, muscle atrophy and circulatory changes.


What conditions can ART treat?

We use ART to treat a broad range of soft tissue injuries, including the following:

What happens during an ART treatment?

ART TreatmentEvery ART session is actually a combination of examination and treatment. The ART provider uses his or her hands to evaluate the texture, tension, movement and function of muscles, fascia, tendons, ligaments and nerves. Abnormal tissues are treated by combining precisely directed tension with very specific patient movements.

These treatment protocols – over 500 of them – are unique to ART. They allow providers to identify and correct the specific problems that are affecting each individual patient. ART is not a cookie-cutter approach.

Treatments take about 8-15 minutes for each area being treated. A condition may require two to ten visits before full functionality is restored. Manipulation if requested is frequently carried out in conjunction with ART to increase treatment effectiveness.

Whenever possible we have our patients perform active movements during the treatment process. Active motions stimulate neurological pathways in the spinal cord that help to reduce pain during treatment. Motion also helps to reproduce the stresses the patient will actually be under during normal active motion. Click on the following tabs for more information about ART Treatments.


Ensuring you get the right touch!

ART Treatment for HeadachesStrength, speed and endurance are expected to improve within the first few treatments. We will often have our patients test these factors after two or three visits. If no improvement is seen, we know that either we have not found the source of the problem, or the affected-area needs to be strengthened further.

Active Release Techniques is non-invasive, very safe, has virtually no side effects, and has a record of producing very good results. When a soft tissue problem has resolved the symptoms will not return unless the injury happens again. To avoid future injuries we instruct our patients in specific exercises, give postural recommendations and explain to our patients the mechanism of injury so that it may be avoided in the future.


How does an ART treatment feel?

Treatments can feel uncomfortable during the movement phases as the scar tissue or adhesions “break-up”. This discomfort is temporary and subsides almost immediately after the treatment.

It is common to feel a duplication of your pain symptoms during the treatment (a good indication that the problem has been identified).

Patients report that “It hurts good”. For more information go to our page about ART Treatments.