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This Is Art®

ART® (active release technique) is a very specific and comprehensive technique that treats a wide variety of soft tissue conditions. Soft-tissue refers to muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and peripheral nerves. ART® is best described as a patented, advanced, movement-based, medical massage technique. The goal of which is to restore normal function to compromised tissue. Regardless of how the injuries or conditions occurred—sports, exercise, occupation, household chores, falls or simply aches and pains of daily living—ART® is proven to be a quick and effective remedy at restoring normal soft tissue function.

ART® continues to excel when compared to standard forms of treatment. Patients frequently report temporary or marginal to moderate relief after seeking traditional treatment methods. When patients hear about Active Release Technique and receive treatment, a vast majority of these patients are amazed at the noticeable and sustained results and relief. Further, a high percentage of cases result in complete resolution of the condition.

Dr. P. Michael Leahy, DC, CCSP – Founder of ART

The Causes of Soft Tissue Injuries
Most soft tissue injuries are caused by repetitive stress and strain, overuse, and cumulative injury disorders (CID) or direct trauma. These causes often result in strains and sprains, and are further identified as:

  • Acute injuries (pulls, tears, collisions, etc.)
  • Micro-trauma (accumulation of small tears)
  • Hypoxia (lack of oxygen to tissue)

Each of these conditions will progress following a specific path in the Cumulative Injury Cycle:

When these conditions exist two forms of lesions can occur: adhesions, scar tissue, or a combination of both.

Adhesions are simply tissue fibers that are stuck together. The best example is a paintbrush. If we use a paintbrush and do not clean it thoroughly, when it dries the bristles become stiff and stuck together. The brush will not function properly unless we get the bristles moving freely. So we bend and manipulate the bristles to allow them to move independently of each other. Similarly, adhesions prevent the tissue fibers from moving freely and independently. ART® is specifically designed to restore independent tissue fiber movement in the same manner.

The second form of lesion, scar tissue, is actually one of the body’s normal defense mechanisms and is instrumental in the healing process. Scar tissue will immobilize damaged tissue to allow the healing process to begin in the same way a cast will immobilize a bone fracture. Scar tissue is a thick, dense connective matrix that weaves its way in and out of damaged soft tissue fibers. Overtime, some of this scar tissue will be reabsorbed by the body but there will remain a residual amount. Manual manipulation, such as ART®, will clear the structure of the residual scar tissue. This will realign the fibers allowing them to move independently.

If left untreated, adhesions and excessive scar tissue will lead to a cumulative injury disorder (CID) resulting in progressive loss of normal soft tissue function. This alters the proper function of muscles and joints, restricting freedom of movement and normal mobility potentially leading to compensation patterns. Other conditions such as tendonitis and peripheral nerve entrapment may also occur. Typical symptoms may include pain, reduced range of motion, lack of flexibility, loss of strength, and discomfort. If a nerve is impinged or entrapped, the symptoms may also include tingling, burning, numbness, aching, electric shock sensation, shooting pain and increased weakness.

ART® (active release technique) treatments are conducted in a clinical setting. Each ART® session is a combination of an assessment, evaluation and treatment. The initial treatment begins with a brief history of how the injury occurred and what may currently aggravate or reproduce the symptoms. This is followed by simple orthopedic testing, range of motion and strength assessments. These simple assessments and evaluations will identify the soft tissue structure or combination of structures that may be involved. With this information, a simple, non-invasive palpation of the identified structures is performed to locate the lesion. During this palpation, tissue tension, texture, movement and general integrity is evaluated. This process identifies the precise location of the lesion. With the tissue identified and the lesion located, specific ART® protocols are performed to release the restricted soft tissue and/or peripheral nerve entrapment. This initial ART® treatment is approximately 40 minutes long.

Follow-up treatments begin with the patient’s assessment of the previous treatment, a re-evaluation of the condition and continued treatment. Adjustments are made to the treatment plan as needed based on each session’s re-assessment and evaluation. Follow-up treatment sessions typically run 15-20 minutes.

ART® consists of over 500 protocols and all are performed following the same procedure. This procedure begins with anatomically shortening the affected tissue by moving a single joint or combination of joints, applying precisely directed non-invasive hand contact and tension on the tissue, then the tissue is lengthened under the contact by reversing the joint movements used to shorten the tissue. This procedure broadens and thins out the tissue allowing the fibers to realign by stripping away the adhesions and/or scar tissue. This will result in the tissue fibers moving independently the way they were designed and ultimately proper function will be restored.

The initial goal is to restore function. For example, is there less restriction, greater range of motion and/or increase freedom of movement? Comfort may not initially be realized but if function is established than comfort is certain to follow.

This process can be a bit uncomfortable and even painful initially but is a strong indication that the lesion has been located and improvement will follow. The first visit is the worst the treatment will feel. As follow-up treatments continue many patients often report this discomfort as a “hurts good” type of feeling. The discomfort and pain from treatment will quickly subside.

Patients often realize some degree of relief after the first treatment. This varies on a case by case basis and ranges anywhere from significant improvement to mild improvement. In many cases, patients are able to continue normal activity during the course of treatment. If a particular activity tends to produce symptoms, the best way to test the effectiveness of the treatment would be to perform the activity in an abbreviated manner. This also provides objective patient feedback regarding what feels better, worse or about the same. This combined with the practitioner’s re-assessment of tissue texture, tension, movement and general integrity provides a complete measure of progress being made.

There will be some soreness that occurs after the first treatment. This is expected due to the tissue manipulation. This resolves within 24 hours and rarely re-occurs.

The improvement realized after the first treatment will last for about 24-36 hours. Then the tissue will begin to regress but not to the degree prior to treatment. This is expected since soft tissue has memory; it will tend to regress toward its original state. To keep this regression to a minimum the second treatment is scheduled within a few days of the first treatment. Once the tissue begins to respond and the patient begins to realize longer periods of sustained relief, the duration between treatments is extended.

On average, the majority of conditions are resolved in 3 to 5 visits. This is normally accomplished within 7 to 10 days. This average varies on a case by case basis since some patients may respond quickly while others may take a bit longer. Some cases may be more involved and require additional treatments.

ART® is very comprehensive and versatile in scope. This provides Certified ART® practitioners the ability to treat a wide variety of soft tissue conditions from head to toe. Therefore, ART® appeals to a broad patient population including:

  • Adolescents to active adults
  • Athletes at all levels
  • Exercise enthusiasts
  • Laborers to office workers
  • People that work or play hard and hurt
  • Typical aches and pains of daily living

All benefit from ART® (active release technique). Patients’ conditions are resolved quickly, completely and at far less expense than alternative forms of treatment.