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What is ART (Active Release Technique)?

ART is a patented treatment that uses soft-tissue manipulation to break up tissue adhesions, freeing your muscles to function more smoothly and efficiently. It helps to improve flexibility and athletic performance, in addition to healing certain types of injuries more quickly.

Muscle Tissue Structure

This technique works best with injuries stemming from overuse, such as tears and strains of myofascial tissue. During an ART session, the practitioner will use “precisely directed tension” in combination with “very specific patient movements” in order to release the bonds of abnormal tissue within and around the muscle or connective tissue being treated (according to the ART website).

Here is an Olympian’s testimony from the ART website:

Olympic Gold with ART®
“Over the last few years while playing for the Dallas Stars, I have been receiving ART (Active Release Therapy) by Dr. Troy Van Biezen. ART helps keep me on the ice performing at a high competitive level. No other treatment has been as effective as ART. Dr. Van Biezen has been a tremendous help in keeping my muscles free and clear of scar tissue with ART and helping me recover so rapidly. Thank you Dr. Van Biezen!”
Brenden Morrow,
2010 Winter Olympic Gold Medal Champion and Captain for the Dallas Stars Hockey Team

As far back as 2002, professional athletes were successfully using ART to enhance performance. This article contains a testimonial and clear explanation of the treatment mechanism involved in ART:

The Active Release Technique approach considers many variables.

Injuries to soft tissue (ligaments, muscles, blood vessels, fascia and nerves) result in inflammation and swelling of the tissue. The body responds to this inflammation by laying down scar tissue (cross fibers on the tissue) in an attempt to stabilize the affected area. This scar tissue:
– Restricts motion.
– Reduces circulation.
– Inhibits nerve function.
– Causes ongoing friction and pressure.
– Usually results in the production of more cross fibers and
adhesions.

To effectively treat any injury these soft tissue restrictions must be addressed.

Effective treatment of soft tissue injuries requires an alteration in tissue structure, usually effected by breaking up cross-fiber adhesions and restoring normal function to the soft tissue. This process substantially decreases healing time, treats the root cause of the injury, and improves performance.

Over time, many methods have been developed to remove these adhesions. As clinicians, we have tested and used many of these techniques. Unfortunately, most of these techniques fail in the critical area of identifying the exact location and direction of these adhesions. ART addresses these issues, providing effective means for identifying, locating, and removing adhesions across soft tissue.

With ART, a considerable amount of tension (not compression) is applied to free up the restrictions on these structures. This is especially effective if the adhesion has altered blood circulation. Decreased blood flow results in a decreased amount of oxygen getting to the soft tissue, a primary factor in the production of new scar tissue.

Rehabilitation remains an important part of the ART procedure. After the ART procedures, we have patients ice, stretch, and strengthen the to prevent re-occurrences. We also have them test our treatments by returning to their workouts. This is what we call dialing in the body. We validate the effectiveness of the treatment by checking the ability of the patient to complete the task that caused the injury.

An article that includes ART research studies can be found here, on the Vanderbilt University website.
If you’re interested in further reading, check out these references from the article:

George, J. W., Tunstall, A. C., Tepe, R. E., & Skaggs, C. D. (2006, March/April). The effects of Active Release Technique on hamstring flexibility: A pilot study. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 29(3), 224-227.

Howitt, S. D. (2006). Lateral epicondylosis: A case study of conservative care using ART and rehabilitation. Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association, 50(3), 182-189.

Howitt, S., Wong, J., & Zabukovec, S. (2006). The conservative treatment of Trigger Thumb using Graston Techniques and Active Release Techniques. Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association, 50(4), 249-254.

Jeffels, A., & Abelson, B. (2002, August). Improved skating performance with Active Release Technique. Skating and ART, 0(1).

Schiottz-Christensen, B., Mooney, V., Azad, S., Selstad, D., Gulick, J., & Bracker, M. (1999). The role of Active Release manual therapy for upper extremity overuse syndromes – A preliminary report. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, 9(3), 201-211.