Active Release Techniques (ART) for Soft Tissue Rehabilitation

Active Release Technique (ART) Treats Soft Tissue Injuries, Relieves Pain, And Restores Normal Tissue Function


Active Release Techniques (ART) at a local race.Active Release Techniques (ART) is a highly effective approach to treating soft tissue injuries and the resulting pain. It is a patented method of treatment developed by Dr. Michael Leahy and is utilized by more than 3500 certified providers, including medical doctors, chiropractors, physical therapists, and athletic trainers worldwide. The technique is widely utilized by professional athletes and teams (NFL, NHL, NBA, etc.) and is used regularly by amateur and professional athletes alike, not only to help with rapid injury recovery, but also for improving their athletic performance. In recent years this method of treatment has begun to gain recognition among the general public as well, as more certified practitioners utilizing ART have entered the sports rehab arena.

As a Full-Body certified ART provider, a Certified Chiropractic Sports Practitioner (CCSP), and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), Dr. Niklaus DelFavero and the other doctors at 1st Choice Sports Rehab Center, provide the highest standards of care in structural, biomechanical, and soft tissue treatments by incorporating  more than 50 years of combined Chiropractic experience with ART, Graston Technique, Physiological Therapeutics, and Exercise Rehab.

Biomechanics and Physiology of Injury

Acute trauma or overuse, sometimes referred to as Repetitive Strain Injury or RSI, are generally the common causes of insult to the soft tissue (muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerves, joint capsules, fascia, etc.). Many of the routine daily activities performed at work or home or while playing sports can result in accumulative injuries to soft tissues. Some common examples of these activities/conditions are:

  • Typing, keyboarding or repeated use of a mouse (Carpal Tunnel Syndrome)
  • Running/Jogging (Shin Splints, Plantar Fasciitis, Knee & Hip pain, Tendonitis)
  • Prolonged standing (Heel Pain, Leg Pain, Thigh And Back Pain)
  • Prolonged sitting (Buttock And Lower Back Pain, Piriformis Syndrome)
  • Repetitive wrist/forearm flexion/extension/rotation (Tennis Elbow, Golfer’s Elbow)
  • Repetitive & prolonged shoulder rotation (Swimmer’s Shoulder, Rotator Cuff Tears)
  • Repetitive bending & lifting (Low Back Pain, Sciatica, Muscle Strain)
  • Sleeping on the stomach (Neck pain, Upper Back Pain, Cervicobrachial Syndrome)
  • Poor Posture (Tension Headaches, Back pain, Neck pain, Arm & Leg pain)
  • All athletic activities can result in RSI’s (Tendonitis, Sprains/Strains, Myofasciitis)
  • Many other conditions/complaints/injuries, all of which can not be listed here

These injuries will result in a series of physiological responses:

1. Inflammation

2. Repair

3. Remodeling

4. Maturation

The initial physiological response by the body is swelling or “Inflammation” in the affected area/tissue. During this phase the circulation and accumulation of fluids within the injured tissue is increased as the body begins to control the damage and remove irritants form the site of injury. The inflammation will lead to increased tension and internal pressure within the injured tissue and the surrounding structures.

In an attempt to heal the injury and stabilize the area, the body will begin the “Repair” process. Fibroblasts begin to create fibrous tissues. This generally consists of laying down of fibrotic scar tissue and adhesions in and around the injured structures. This scar tissue is generally a lower grade of tissue than the original one and is both functionally and structurally deficient, lacking elasticity and limiting proper circulation and function. As circulation is reduced, tissue hypoxia (decreased oxygen) develops.

During the final 2 phases of “Remodeling” and “Maturation” the body is simply attempting to organize and orient the newly formed fibers so as to restore the injured tissue closer to its natural state. Unfortunately, as miraculous as the body is, it does a poor job in tissue restoration. The final result is a tougher, less elastic, shortened and therefore weakened tissue, which causes restriction of motion between muscle layers as well as nerves. For the athlete, this means poorer performance and less than desirable results. For the general public and athlete both, this means pain and discomfort at the site of injury; or in the case of peripheral nerve entrapments which are commonly caused after such injuries, pain, numbness and tingling radiating into the arms or legs. The resulting pain typically will start a process of “compensatory change”, which will begin affecting other tissues and structures in that kinetic chain.

How Can ART Help?

ART is a form of hands-on or “Manual Therapy”. It is a method of locating and treating the injured/affected soft tissue so that the process of “Repair, Remodeling, and, Maturation” produces a better outcome in a shorter period of time. Clinical findings indicate that mechanical loading techniques such as ART help produce increased wound healing ALONG the lines of the injured tissue. As a result the healed structure is not only stronger and more resistant to future injury, but it also has improved functionality.

According to the latest research, Immobilization or bracing which is commonly used after traumatic injuries results in a prolonged healing time as well as a weaker healed tissue. Contrary to the above approach, ART combines both passive and active Range of Movement (ROM) in its treatment protocols. Its specific approach allows for differentiation between various structures, thereby allowing the practitioner to locate and treat the CORRECT structure. Combining the manual loading technique with the proper ROM and the specificity of locating and treating the correct anatomical structure allows for the break up of fibrotic tissues and their proper realignment during the healing cycle. ART provides very specific treatment protocols for over 300 muscular injuries and 100 peripheral nerve entrapments as well as many tendinous and ligamentous injuries. This is what sets Active Release Techniques apart from all other soft tissue techniques and has caused many world class athletes and athletic professionals to turn to this method of treatment for help.