Active release technique (ART) is a patented, state-of-the-art soft tissue therapy used to restore optimal texture, motion, and function to muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia and to release entrapped nerves or blood vessels. It has been used to effectively treat a number of conditions such as headaches, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, shin splints, muscular imbalances, shoulder pain, sciatica, plantar fasciitis, knee problems, and tennis elbow to name a few.
Dr. Michael Leahy, the founder and developer of ART, is a doctor of chiropractic in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He utilized his background in aeronautical engineering and anatomy to develop a system of treating soft tissue injuries not responding to other forms of therapy.
ART works on scar tissue, the body’s natural response to injury. Scar tissue formation can occur for a number of reasons. Typically scar tissue forms at the point of injury or trauma such as in the case of a muscle strain or ligament sprain. It may also be formed by cumulative or repetitive stress situations such as prolonged sitting or typing. As a result of remaining seated all day, the back muscles will remain in shortened position and constant state of tightness. As the muscle tightens, some inflammation develops which causes muscle tissue to be deprived of its oxygen supply, a condition known as hypoxia. Hypoxia, in turn, will also cause the formation of scar tissue. This haphazard scar tissue adheres to muscle, disrupting its regular patterns of motion, connective tissues resulting in decreased flexibility of a muscle or joint, and to nervous tissue entrapping the nerve and resulting in conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome or sciatica.
ART works by removing these scar tissue adhesions. A certified ART provider uses his or her hands to evaluate the texture, tightness and movement of muscles, fascia, tendons, ligaments and nerves.The doctor locates the specific point of adhesion, contacts it, and has the patient actively draw the muscle through its range of motion under the providers contact. The treatment itself lasts anywhere between five and 15 minutes and may take up to 8 to 10 sessions depending on the severity of the condition. While the treatment itself may be somewhat painful, the patient may see substantial improvement in function and significant pain reduction in the first treatment. ART will serve to soften and stretch the fibrous scar tissue and the structure affected by the adhesion will show decreased restriction to circulation, increased range of motion and increased strength and function.
To be a credentialed ART practitioner one must complete 3 four-day workshops including a written and practical examination which demands 90% proficiency in upper and lower extremity and spine. There is now also certification for long tract nerve conditions.