Active Release Therapy, or ART, was developed in the 1980s as a way to more quickly and efficiently promote the healing of soft tissue, specifically related to sports injuries. Overused muscles can begin to develop scar tissue, causing discomfort or inability to perform the same motions that used to come easily.
Related to massage, which promotes increased circulation and healing, active release therapy attempts to use trigger points to prompt soft tissue to work properly and heal more quickly. These trigger points may be in an area other than where you are experiencing pain. For example, you may have pain that seems to be located in your foot, but your actual trigger point is in your glute muscle. By correcting the trigger point in the glute, your foot pain can be resolved.
A professional who uses active release therapy will do an assessment of the area that is producing uncomfortable symptoms and assess the scar tissue and muscle health in that area. Areas that have scar tissue are treated by placing pressure directly to those areas and having patients complete precise movements to restore the overall function of the muscles. There are more than 500 specific moves in active release therapy and there is no “standard” treatment method for every patient. Each injury is looked at as its own unique problem with its own unique resolution.
Active release therapy may be used on its own or in combination with other therapies to provide the most comprehensive approach to promote healing. If you have a sports-related injury or muscle stiffness that does not seem to subside, it may be time to ask about whether active release therapy is right for you.