What Conditions Can Active Release Therapy (ART) Be Used For?

Active Release Therapy

If you have been dealing with debilitating pain in your joints or muscles it may be time to seek out alternative treatment options. One treatment option that has surged in popularity in recent years has been Active Release Therapy or Active Release Techniques (ART). This treatment style aims to provide long-term results by moving your body. This article will discuss what ART is, what it can be used for, and the benefits of the treatment. 

What is Active Release Therapy (ART)?

What sets ART apart from other treatment options is that it aims to treat your body’s soft tissue by combining manipulation and movement. The idea is that by moving areas where you’re feeling pain, you can actually begin feeling relief. The goal is to identify, isolate, and target areas affected in order to break up scar tissue. Here are some areas of the body ART can help with:

  • Muscles
  • Ligaments
  • Tendons
  • Nerves

This treatment style has been around for more than 30 years and is used by chiropractors, physical therapists, massage therapists, and physicians. 

How Does Active Release Therapy (ART) Help?

Injuries can cause lingering pain even years later. Beyond injuries, our joints and muscles can ache just from the wear and tear of everyday life. The older we get, the more and more difficult it becomes to get rid of this pain once and for all. That’s where ART comes into play. ART can be used to treat pain and other symptoms caused by injury or damage to:

  • Fascia – This is the connective tissue that protects and supports muscles and organs throughout the body. Inflammation of fascia tissue can lead to extraordinary pain.
  • Major muscle groups – Muscle groups are prone to injury especially among those who live an active lifestyle. This includes muscles located in your neck, shoulders, back, and hamstrings.
  • Tendons and ligaments – Tendons connect muscles to bone and ligaments connect bone to bone. When a tendon or ligament is damaged, you may experience excruciating pain and a limited range of motion.

What Conditions Are Treated With Active Release Therapy (ART)?

Unfortunately, these areas of the body can be prone to injury. Even after recovering from one of these injuries, you may feel lingering effects. These lingering effects can greatly diminish your quality of life. You will notice yourself focusing on the pain you’re feeling more than anything else going on in your life. Here are some of the conditions ART can treat:

  • Lower back pain
  • Chronic neck pain
  • Shoulder strain
  • Shin splints
  • Sciatic nerve pains
  • Bursitis
  • Tennis elbow

If you’re dealing with any of these conditions, speak with your doctor about alternative treatment options such as ART. Experts believe alternative treatment methods provide more long-term benefits than pain killers without the dreaded side effects of painkillers. 

How Does Active Release Therapy (ART) work?

Injuries can lead to a dense collection of scar tissue that can be common in joints and muscles. If scar tissue binds between your muscles it can limit flexibility and be painful. These adhesions can also entrap nerves which creates lingering pain that feels impossible to treat. 

ART manipulates soft tissue which helps break up the adhesions so your muscles, joints, and nerves can move freely again. A practitioner will feel the area where you feel pain looking to identify the location of the scar tissue. From there, they can isolate and target the area, manipulating it to break up the scar tissue, restoring proper blood flow so the area can heal. 

Benefits of Active Release Therapy (ART)

For those who struggle with chronic pain, ART can provide numerous benefits. It also benefits those who have suffered from a soft tissue injury. It’s a great alternative for those looking for lasting treatment options that don’t include potentially addictive medications. Here are some of the other benefits of ART:

  • Increased range of motion
  • Decreased lower back pain
  • Effective management of shin splints
  • Effective management of plantar fasciitis
  • Improvement of sciatic symptoms

Again, it’s important to speak with your doctor about ART before beginning a treatment plan. While it has proven to be an effective alternative treatment option, it may not be for everyone. 

Difference Between Similar Treatments

ART is just one of many soft tissue treatment options. Knowing the differences between these treatment options can help you pinpoint which option is best for you and your ailments. Here are some of the differences between ART and similar treatment options:

Deep Tissue Massages

Deep tissue massages are incredibly common when treating chronic pain in joints and muscles. ART and deep tissue massages share many similarities. For example, both ART and deep tissue massages combine active movement with pressure. 


Both rolfing and ART work to manipulate soft tissue. While ART is used to treat scar tissue, rolfing is used to help improve alignment and posture. 

Graston Technique

This patented technique is very similar to ART. It also targets adhesions and improves blood flow but uses handheld instruments to provide tissue mobilization.

What Else Should You Know About Active Release Therapy (ART)?

We know ART sounds great, but it doesn’t come without its drawbacks. Since its main goal is applying pressure to areas where you feel pain, it can be incredibly painful. If you have a low tolerance for pain, it may not be the best treatment option for you. 

On the bright side, ART can work in as little as one session. For some, multiple sessions may be in order. ART should only be performed by a certified provider. Inexperienced and shoddy work can cause more harm than good. 

Schedule an Appointment Today

Dr. Leo at Today’s Integrative Health is ready to help if you’re looking into active release therapy. We can do a complete health assessment to see if ART is right for you. Call our office today to schedule your first appointment. We can’t wait to work with you! 

Picture of Dr. L. J. Leo

Dr. L. J. Leo

Dr. Leo began his education at the Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine in Blacksburg, Virginia, where he earned his doctorate in osteopathy. He completed his internal medicine residency through the U.S. Army and had the honor of serving multiple overseas tours before retirement.

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