Active Release Techniques

Active release techniques explained by Denver, Golden, Aurora, Boulder, Broomfield, Jefferson, and Littleton Colorado’s top pain doctors

Back Pain - Active Release TechniquesActive release techniques, or ART, are some of the best-known, non-invasive therapies for soft tissues, such as muscle. ART-based therapy is generally used for conditions or injuries that are a result of repetitive stress, or pressure repeatedly applied to a specific area of the body; or injuries or conditions that are associated with weak and tight muscles. These areas carry a higher risk of developing inflammation, scar tissue, and abnormal fusions that can result in reduced mobility and chronic pain in the regions affected.

How Are Active Release Techniques Performed?

ART typically involves a practitioner applying pressure using the thumb and fingers to the injured tissue while simultaneously asking patients to move the muscles in or around the area, to cause them to repeatedly flex and then relax. ART restores tissue structure, and in many cases, increases muscle strength. It reduces pain, stiffness, and inflammation as well as the risk of muscle tearing, scarring, and abnormal fusion, thus improving mobility and function of the area(s) in question.

ART, combined with timely diagnosis and treatment, can result in better outcomes for soft-tissue injury. This may reduce or remove the need for more invasive treatment, i.e. surgery.  ART can also reduce recovery time from injuries, and has been reported to shorten this to just a few weeks in some cases. In comparison, other treatments, such as physiotherapy or massage, can require several months or even a year to achieve recovery.

ART is reported as successful in up to 90% of cases. However, there are some risks associated with this treatment option. It can potentially worsen symptoms in cases involving active inflammation or blunt-force trauma. Serious injury or debility can result from improperly-performed ART, as delivered by a practitioner with negligible or inadequate training. These risks do not detract from ART’s increasing popularity and demand as a non-invasive muscle trauma treatment with appreciably reduced recovery times.

Conditions Related To Active Release Techniques

achilles tendonitesActive release techniques are popular in treating a range of injuries and conditions, including straining of the Achilles tendon (Achilles tendinitis), hip-snapping, knee pain, post-operative shoulder pains, many types of back pain, tennis elbow, and carpal tunnel syndrome. ART for tennis elbow incorporates the muscles of the forearm and also the muscles controlling wrist motion. Pressure is usually applied to specific areas of the elbow, and the patient is instructed to rotate and flex the wrist while extending the elbow. This causes the muscles of the forearm to contract and relax repeatedly, which treats muscle fusion and restores tissue structure, while simultaneously reducing inflammation and pain.

Achilles tendinitis occurs due to repetitive stress such as that encountered during athletic or sporting activities. ART can be performed on a number of muscles that are associated with the tendon, for example the posterior tibial muscles and calf muscles. ART treats this condition by reducing stiffness, scarring, and muscle fusion.

Hip-snapping, in which the tendons or ligaments of this joint move abnormally against the muscles in a way that produces audible or palpable snapping, can be accompanied by pain. It is associated with a number of hip conditions, few of which are serious. ART therapy helps to reduce the risk of scarring, fused muscles, and inflammation associated with snapping hip by improving blood flow to muscles in the hips. Again, a practitioner will apply pressure to specific points on the hip, while instructing the patient in how they should move the relevant muscles to achieve recovery and pain relief.

ART for other conditions such as carpal tunnel or back pain follow a similar pattern, i.e. of the application of pressure accompanied by the appropriate controlled muscle movements by the patient. The techniques have been shown to reduce pain, inflammation, and scarring in all of these conditions, while restoring muscle function and strength.


Active release techniques (ART) is a term referring to a range of soft tissue therapeutics. These techniques are effective in treating injury and disorder in muscle tissue, and are an increasingly popular option among practitioners and chiropractors. ART can reduce recovery time of, and further damage to, the affected area by improving its strength and flexibility. ART can treat a range of conditions that are typically caused by muscle strain or overuse.

An ART session typically includes a combination of applying pressure to the tissue in question while carefully instructing the patient to shorten and then lengthen an associated muscle. This controlled movement results in a reduction of muscle fusion, scarring, and inflammation. This technique also reduces pain and restores mobility and function to the affected area.

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