Active Release Technique

Active Release Technique (ART) is a hands-on approach to diagnose and treat soft tissue injuries. In this case soft tissue injuries refer primarily to muscles, tendons, nerves and ligaments.

Active Release Technique (ART) is used to treat acute strains and sprains as well as chronic overuse conditions such as tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, runner’s knee, low back pain and the like. These overuse conditions go by the names of RSI and CTD (repetitive strain injury and cumulative trauma disorder) and are very common conditions in today’s society. They tend to occur as a result of a poorly healed acute sprain/strain or from repeated minor trauma such as tennis elbow in an office worker who spends all weekend hammering nails into a deck. The repeated small insults cause micro damage to the tissue which if bad enough can present with pain, swelling, tingling, numbness, burning, weakness and tightness. As the person continues to use the affected body part, the cycle of ‘insult and injury’ worsens.

Accurate diagnosis is required to treat these soft tissue conditions successfully. Active Release Therapy makes a diagnosis by identifying the exact site of injury, the type of tissue involved (e.g. muscle, ligament, nerve, etc.) and the correct nature of injury such as a recent tear or longstanding muscle strain (e.g. scar tissue).

Active Release Technique is distinct but not dissimilar to other techniques such as mobilizing and massage. What differentiates Active Release Therapy from other soft tissue therapies is ‘movement’. For example, in treating RSI’s the movement is ‘active’ (i.e. done by the patient) for the purpose of getting the damaged tissue (e.g. scar tissue) to stretch in its limited range. While this movement is occurring the practitioner maintains a firm finger pressure feeling the damaged tissue come under tension. It is this lengthening action coupled with the specific finger pressure that creates enough tension to break up or ‘release’ the damaged tissue. Once the ‘old’ damaged tissue is broken up, the soft tissues will begin to move again with full function.

At Austin Preferred Spine and Sports Rehab, Dr. Fluitt has had good success in treating numerous soft tissue injuries, ranging from the resolution of pain and weakness from carpal tunnel syndrome and calf muscle tears, to the restoration of full range of motion without pain in chronic shoulder and neck injuries. One major strength of Active Release Therapy is that a long course of treatment is generally not necessary. In many cases, only 4 to 5 treatments will correct the problem or result in significant improvement.  If this improvement is not seen by the fourth treatment Active Release Technique is not likely to be of help and we will then refer you to the proper specialist.  Physical therapy and/or an active exercise rehabilitation program complements Active Release Technique well and is almost always necessary for maximum recovery in chronic or recurrent cases.  Preliminary studies have shown Active Release Technique to be more effective than conventional treatments for some soft tissue injuries.