Active Release Technique


Active Release Technique

Medical websites, offices, and brochures often use complex-sounding jargon terms that are complex and intimidating. Sometimes these unfamiliar terms can cause fear and anxiety about pursing a particular treatment. The same is true for some chiropractic techniques that are highly effective and mechanically simple, but people are unaware of the strategies and mechanics involved.


What is Active Release Techniques (ART)?


ART is a state-of-the-art technology that aims to enhance the musculoskeletal system’s mobility and strength. This technique includes soft tissue strategic movements, massaging techniques, and muscle-specific stretches to improve the health of nerves, fascia, ligaments, tendons, and muscles.

What conditions can be managed by Active Release Technique (ART)?

Chiropractors use ART to manage a wide range of conditions, including:

  • Tennis elbow
  • Chronic knee problems
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Sciatica
  • Shoulder pain
  • Shin splints
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Chronic back pain
  • Recurrent episodes of disabling headaches

Who may benefit from Active Release Technique (ART)?

ART is exceptionally helpful for people living with chronic pain syndromes, such as the elderly and younger individuals who are actively involved in dynamic physical activities, either professional or recreational. In addition, anyone who has been unable to get optimal pain relief through traditional treatment options may opt for ART.

What are contraindications to Active Release Technique (ART)?

For some conditions, ART will not be an effective treatment. These conditions include:

  • Acute injury
  • Blunt trauma
  • Weeping or ulcerating lesions

How do overuse muscle injuries develop?

Human muscles have a remarkable tendency to respond to stress and obnoxious stimuli, such as abuse or overuse of muscles, continuous repetitive motion, or sudden strong impact of force in the wrong direction. In such scenarios, musculoskeletal injury is mainly due to:

  • Hypoxic condition, i.e. not getting sufficient oxygen
  • Accumulation of several small tears over time (in case of micro trauma)
  • An acute major injury, such as collisions, tears, pulls, etc.

These conditions can stimulate the body to produce dense and tough scar tissue within the damaged area. This scar tissue limits the free movement of otherwise mobile elements in a joint cavity, leading to:

  • Weakening and shortening of muscles.
  • Excessive push/pull or tension on the tendons that may lead to tendonitis.
  • Involvement of vascular and nervous elements to cause vascular/nerve entrapment syndrome respectively.
  • Limitation of range of motion.
  • Loss of muscle or joint strength.
  • Trapped nerve, which may lead to feeling of weakness, numbness, and tingling.

How are Active Release Techniques performed?

Each Active Release Technique (ART) session combines examination and treatment. Active Release Technique (ART) providers evaluates muscle and fascia tightness, flexibility, and texture. In addition, chiropractors assess the surrounding structures and components required for properly functioning nerves, ligaments, tendons and fascia (1).  Following treatment pain, range of motion and strength may be reassessed.

Treatment via Active Release Techniques (ART) combines various techniques to manage scar tissue,  adhesions and fibrous tissues, as well as nerve entrapments. The treatment protocols involve 500 specific protocols that may be applied to patients depending on:

  • Individual factors, such as age, co-morbid medical conditions, etc.
  • Presentation or symptoms
  • Tissue factors, such as the location of an injury or damage.

These techniques also help the Active Release Technique (ART) provider to identify the causes of damaged tissue, and thus educate the patient to prevent future re-injuries.

Applications of Active Release Technique (ART):

Several recent studies have shown Active Release Technique (ART) to be a safe and effective technique.

In a recent study published in Physical Therapy Rehabilitation Science (2), investigators identified Active Release Technique (ART) as a non-invasive way to locate and break scar tissues and adhesions. To assess ART’s sustainability and functionality, the researchers studied 12 patients with chronic low back pain. After three weeks of therapy (2 sessions/week), the study population reported remarkable improvement in pain and pressure.

Benner and associates (3) reported another study in which Active Release Technique (ART )was used to manage moderately severe pain and stiffness in the setting of Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome. Results of this one-week study showed a decrease in pain intensity of about 50%.

Hengel and associates (4) studied 26 patients to assess the effect of ART on the cervical range of motion. More than 80% of patients reported significant improvement in pain and range of motion within a three-week period.

Other helpful chiropractic and physical therapy strategies that are used in association with Active Release Technique (ART) include:

  • Ultrasound technique, which improves the rearrangement of collagen fibres and enhances the formation of new vessels.
  • Graston Technique

It is imperative to understand that overuse injury may involve any tissue in the body and may present with many different symptoms. Active Release Technique (ART) practitioners design customized treatment plans to restore optimal range of motion, flexibility, and pain-free movements for people of all ages.



  1. Drover, J. M., Forand, D. R., & Herzog, W. (2004). Influence of active release technique on quadriceps inhibition and strength: a pilot study. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 27(6), 408-413.
  2. Tak, S. J., & Choi, W. J. (2013). The effects of Active Release Techniques on the gluteus medius for pain relief in persons with chronic low back pain. Physical Therapy Rehabilitation Science, 2(1), 27-30.
  3. Benner, D., Dixon, E., & Plumley, T. (2011). The Effectiveness of Active Release Therapy on Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome.
  4. Hengel, H. (2012). A One Group Pretest Posttest Study of the Effects of Active Release Technique Therapy on Cervical Range Of Motion.

Additional Resources:

Active Release Techniques website:

To see Active Release Technique in Action:


See also: