Active Release Technique
Active Release Technique
Do you often find that your shoulders and neck are constantly sore? Are you stretching after every workout, but things still feel tight and tense? The Active Release Technique is a popular method for naturally treating and alleviating tension and pain in problematic muscle groups.
Active Release Technique, often abbreviated as ART, is when a specialist applies manual pressure by hand to a specific muscle group. The muscle is then shortened, manual pressure is applied again, and lengthened into an extended stretch where more pressure is applied. The neuromuscular pressure points of the soft tissue are the targets during Active Release Technique.
After an ART session, patients report better range of motion, less pain, and better recovery. Let’s take a closer look at the active release technique, how it works, and how it can help you with your health, fitness, and overall wellness.
What is Active Release Technique (ART) and How is it Used?
The active release technique is a combination of manual muscle manipulation and movement. The direct pressure and movement help to break up adhesions and scar tissue while promoting better blood flow, which may support a number of benefits including faster recovery. This pressure and movement can be applied to one of the following areas of the body:
As the name implies, this is the tissue that connects and holds certain muscle tissues and organs while separating others. Primarily made up of collagen, connective tissue is critical for healthy movement patterns. Repetitive movements such as typing at work and playing tennis can cause inflammation in connective tissue, which can cause soreness, tightness, and pain.
Tendons and Ligaments
Continuing with the idea above, tendons connect muscle tissue to the bone while ligaments connect bone to bone. Just like connective tissue, tendons and ligaments are at risk for direct impact injury and overuse injury. Both are highly susceptible to inflammation and a decrease in range of motion.
This includes all major muscle groups as well as secondary movers. For example, your quadriceps are a major muscle group, while your forearms are a secondary mover. A simple resistance-based workout can cause soreness and tightness. Overuse or doing too much can result in strain and scar tissue development, which can impede the range of motion.
What to Expect During Your First Active Release Technique?
During your first session you can expect a thorough consultation. This will be a discussion with your chiropractor to determine the points of pain, areas that are giving you trouble, and where the focus of the treatment should take place.
The consultation may also involve performing simple movement patterns so that the doctor can monitor the degree of range of motion. After your consultation, your doctor may take you through a brief warm-up to get the blood flowing and prepare the muscle tissues.
Using direct pressure, your doctor will feel along the tissue or muscle, and once the adhesion or scar tissue is located, there will be a pattern of pressure and movement. Once the doctor feels like the adhesions have given way or started to decrease, they will move on to the next problem area.
After each area has been taken care of, your doctor will have you try those same movement patterns from the consultation to judge the improvement in range of motion. They may also ask you to judge your perceived pain levels before and after the treatment.
IMPORTANT: Be sure to drink plenty of mineral or electrolyte-based water after your active release technique sessions.
Benefits of the Active Release Technique
Regardless of your current fitness goals or lifestyle, the active release technique may be able to provide you with the following benefits:
Decreases Adhesions and Scar Tissue
As mentioned above, ART specialists can locate problematic scar tissue or muscle adhesions and apply the technique in a way that breaks up and decreases them in size and number. This is the foundation for most of the other benefits on this list.
Improves Range of Motion
One study found that subjects who were given the active release technique showed a significant improvement in neck range of motion when compared to joint mobilization. Researchers concluded that while both are effective for improving ROM, the active release technique provides better results.
Continuing with the point above, another study found that the active release technique was successful in increasing flexibility post-workout. The catch is that it has to be used consistently.
One of the most common reasons given for an inactive lifestyle is pain. Thankfully, the active release technique can help. One study found that all subjects a decrease in pain after a series of active release technique sessions.
Who Will Benefit from the Active Release Technique?
Anyone who is active will benefit from using the active release technique on a consistent basis. This is especially true if you’re an athlete or involved in weight training activities such as powerlifting, bodybuilding, or CrossFit.
If you are not very active, you can still benefit from active release technique because a more sedentary lifestyle can still promote adhesions and scar tissue. For example, if you work a desk job where typing is involved all day, you are at risk for carpal tunnel syndrome, which can be treated with the active release technique.
If you suffer from any of the following conditions, the active release technique can dramatically improve your condition:
- Tennis elbow
- Chronic neck pain
- Shoulder strains
- Tension headaches
- Lower back pain
- Sciatic nerve pain
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Plantar fasciitis
Ready to Use the Active Release Technique?
Do you want to begin incorporating the active release technique into your fitness or treatment program? Let us help you!
Ravenswood Chiropractic offers the active release technique and it’s performed by our elite ART Certified Provider. If you want to learn more about active release technique or you want to set up a consultation, give us a call at 773-878-7330. We’re ready to help you feel your best!
Kim, Jun Ho et al. “Effects of the active release technique on pain and range of motion of patients with chronic neck pain.” Journal of physical therapy science vol. 27,8 (2015): 2461-4. doi:10.1589/jpts.27.2461
George, James W. et al. “The Effects of Active Release Technique on Hamstring Flexibility: A Pilot Study” Journal of Manipulative & Physiological Therapeutics, Volume 29, Issue 3, 224 – 227
Sajin Tak, Yongwoo Lee, Wonjae Choi, and Gyuchang Lee “The effects of active release technique on the gluteus medius for pain relief in persons with chronic low back pain” Published online July 1, 2013 Korean Academy of Physical Therapy Rehabilitation Science. 2013;2:27-30