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Everything You Need to Know About The Active Release Technique

Active Release Technique (ART) is a powerful, highly effective tool that chiropractors rely on to provide quick relief to patients suffering from a variety of muscular ailments. Unlike chiropractic adjustments that are used to alleviate joint problems, ART can be used to treat almost any musculoskeletal complaint.

What is ART?

Active Release Technique is a form of myofascial release that is used most often to treat repetitive motion injuries in the soft tissue systems of the body, such as those found in muscles, tendons, and ligaments. This patented technique is commonly used to treat:

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and similar injuries
  • Tennis Elbow
  • Tendonitis
  • Sciatica
  • Shin Splints
  • Frozen Shoulder
  • Neckaches
  • Backaches
  • Headaches
  • Plantar Fasciitis
  • Knee Problems
  • Nerve Impingements

How Does It Work?

ART works to return muscles, tendons, and ligaments to their normal functionality quickly and permanently and without resorting to surgery. The injuries listed above all have one thing in common – they often come about from overuse. As a result of this overuse, the muscles of the body develop scar tissue called Myofascial adhesions. These adhesions or scar tissue prevent the muscles, tendons, and ligaments from moving freely and reduce their mobility and cause dysfunction and pain.

The longer the scar tissue remains in the muscles, the shorter and weaker they become, sometimes even trapping nerves and causing pain, numbness, or tingling in addition to reduced function and strength. Active Release Technique breaks up this scar tissue and myofacial adhesions allowing the body to regain movement and function.

Treatment consists of identifying the myofascial adhesions in the muscles, tendons, or ligaments and applying pressure to them while alternately shortening and lengthening the muscle. This breaks up the scar tissue and restores the muscle fibers to their proper parallel position.

ART treatment is very fast and effective with results noticeable in as little as one treatment in many cases. Depending on the location and the severity of the injury and the build up of scar tissue, treatments will vary, but the average case is usually resolved in 4-7 visits.

Who Does ART?

ART is only performed by professionals who treat the body and body mechanics. You’re unlikely to find a medical doctor performing ART. Approximately 80% of the practitioners who use ART are chiropractors. The remaining 20% are made up of physical therapists, massage therapists and athletic trainers. Most professional sports teams employ at least one of their chiropractors or trainers who is certified in ART because it restores function so quickly and allows the athletes to return to the field immediately.

Learning ART is a very time-consuming and expensive process. Individuals must take three  courses that cover the three main sections of the body: the spine, upper extremities and lower extremities. Each of these three components is covered in a 4-day seminar spent learning the technique.

Anyone who practices ART must be certified in order to use it in his or her practice. After completing the seminars, practitioners must pass a test to be certified and must earn a score of at least 90% in order to pass. Additionally, practitioners must get recertified every year and must take additional courses and seminars in order to do so.

How Long Does It Take?

ART sessions normally take around 15 minutes in length but depend on practitioner preference and what body part/s are being treated. Patients often describe the treatment as “intense” with a “good hurt” that feels like it’s working and provides relief almost immediately.

Each session includes an examination of the area and treatment. Prior to making any manipulations, the practitioners will evaluate the movement, restrictions and texture of the muscles, ligaments, tendons and nerves in question and ask the patient about any symptoms they are experiencing such as pain, tingling, numbness or loss of motion. The physical exam allows the practitioner to find the specific muscles and ligaments that are damaged and provide precisely controlled movements to release the tension in that area. There are over 500 specific moves used in ART, which makes the technique highly customizable to each individual patient’s needs.

Given the time and financial commitments involved in becoming trained in the Active Release Technique, providers who offer it are extremely well-versed in the technique and committed to its use. The time it takes to learn 500 specific treatment moves alone provides an anatomy lesson that can’t be learned anywhere else. If you’re serious about restoring mobility and function to your body without resorting to surgery, you owe it to yourself to try Active Release Technique.