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What is ART?

Active Release Technique (ART) is a style of bodywork. It can be considered a massage technique, but stands out as unique or advanced because it involves pinning down a specific muscle when it is in a shortened position and then moving the patient’s body in a particular way to lengthen and generate tension in that area.

While shortening and lengthening the muscle is conceptually simple, a detailed knowledge of anatomy and a well trained hand is necessary to palpate and appropriately apply the ideal amount of depth and pressure to target smaller muscles and deeper structures on the body.

The movement is also significant as it allows us to work with the body’s nervous system. ART can be applied active (the patient moving) or passive (the therapist moving the patient). If you are actually taking the body through a range of motion while treating, the nervous system is more likely to feel safe or stable accessing that new range of motion for longer after the treatment compared to a passive style of bodywork.

ART’s combination of precise contact with specific body movements allow a trained hand to differentiate between muscle layers that are gliding freely vs tangled together. This diagnostic ability typically takes some time and practice to develop, and can help identify the root cause of the patient’s issue, as the spot that is hurting is not always the root cause of the problem. In a bodywork session, I will often hear “oh, I didn’t realize I was tight there,” and it is not uncommon for the patient to leave with a better understanding of where the pain is coming from and what to stretch or strengthen on their own to continue making functional improvements.

Furthermore, an understanding of human biomechanics and common compensatory patterns can act as a road map to help prioritize which areas to treat. Focusing only on areas of pain is generally not a wise long term treatment approach. Tight spots are not always painful. Weak/lengthened areas are likely to be painful, and will likely respond better to strengthening/activation. And ideally we are looking to not only get rid of pain but also optimize movement or function. Efficient movement should reduce pain.

To schedule your ART session, check out Dr. Chris' schedule here to book an appointment.


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