Active Release Techniques (ART) are a soft tissue method that focuses on relieving tissue tension via the removal of fibrosis/adhesions which can develop in tissues as a result of overload due to repetitive use. These disorders may lead to muscular weakness, numbness, aching, tingling and burning sensations. ART has been reported to be both a diagnostic and a treatment technique, however, there is little scientific evidence regarding the effects of ART on various pathologies, with most of the available evidence being anecdotal and based on case reports.
ART was developed and patented by Dr. P. Michael Leahy, DC, CCSP, a Doctor of Chiropractic medicine. Dr. Leahy noticed that the symptoms of patients were related to changes in their soft tissues so he developed this technique which revolved completely around the patient’s symptoms. He documented his first work in 1985 under the title of Myofascial Release, but later patented it under the name Active Release Techniques.
ART is used to treat symptoms with muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nerves. Its design is 3 fold:
- to restore free and unimpeded motion of all soft tissues
- to release entrapped nerves, vasculature and lymphatics
- to re-establish optimal texture, resilience and function of soft tissues.
Tissues are prone to negative changes from trauma, such as swelling, fibrosis and adhesions. During treatment, the clinician uses manual therapy to apply compressive, tensile and shear forces to address repetitive strain injuries, cumulative trauma injuries and constant pressure tension lesions. The clinician applies deep tension at the area of tenderness whilst the patient is instructed to actively move the injury site from a shortened to a lengthened position. The placing of a contact point near the lesion and causing the patient to move in a manner that produces a longitudinal sliding motion of soft tissues, e.g, nerves, ligaments and muscles beneath the contact point.