Home >  Blog >  Active Release Techniques: The Therapy that Hurts So Good

Active Release Techniques: The Therapy that Hurts So Good

Posted by Douglas W. Stoddard MD, M Sp Med, Dip Sport Med, ES on 24 October 2017
Active Release Techniques: The Therapy that Hurts So Good

When people think of active release therapy, they usually associate it with water colours and brush strokes - not this:

It's understandable that some would label active release therapy as a deep tissue massage's angrier, more violent counterpart. But it's actually one of the most effective methods of soft tissue release, catered towards expediting athletes' healing and improving their performance.

The Art of ART

Over 500 hand motions are used by ART practitioners to assess tight, sensitive areas. Similar to trigger point therapy, a practitioner will use their thumb, hand, or elbow to contact with a specific area of tension. What makes active release therapy unique, is while a therapist maintains tension, patients will move and lengthen their muscles.

The active release technique breaks up adhesions, which are characterized by the build-up of dense scar tissue, limiting a joint's and muscle's flexibility and range of motion. If you feel like your muscles are moving in molasses, your musculature is likely cluttered with adhesions.

What Makes ART Effective?

Techniques such as Swedish massage are for superficial relaxation and don't focus on breaking up adhesions or improving range of motion. Superficial treatments aren't particularly useful to high-performing athletes whose muscle density and scar tissue build-up require more focused work.

While deep tissue massage and myofascial release both break up adhesions and fight inflammation, they don't restore functional motion like ART.

ART practitioners are typically trained health care practitioners who've received certification. They can deftly explore a patient's musculature to locate scar tissue build-up, sources of tension, or impingements. Once these underlying issues are addressed, patients quickly return to their full functions while avoiding further injury in other muscles, joints, or tendons.

What ART Treats:

ART can alleviate the following symptoms of overused muscles:

  • Headaches
  • Back pain
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Shin splints
  • Shoulder pain
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Knee problems
  • Tennis elbow

What to Know Before Your First Session

Each active release session is unique; therefore, patient reactions are distinctive. While the video in our introduction makes ART seem like some kind of torture session, it's actually tailored towards a patient's tolerance levels.

In the video, the therapist is working on a heavily muscled bodybuilder with immense muscle density and required very intense therapy. However, most sessions would look like this:

Practitioners will be in constant communication with clients throughout a session to assess how they're responding and proceed accordingly.

Some feel immediate benefits after an active release treatment and can perform at peak levels with little needed recovery. Others are sorer after a treatment, taking a few days to recover, similar to a taxing workout or other demanding athletic performance.

SEMI offers comprehensive active release treatments that can restore function and movement in your ailing muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints.

Book an appointment online today, and take advantage of this specialized program, and how it can help resolve the health and movement issues you're experiencing.

Author: Douglas W. Stoddard MD, M Sp Med, Dip Sport Med, ES
About: Dr. Douglas Stoddard is a sports medicine physician and is the Medical Director of the Sports & Exercise Medicine Institute (SEMI). After receiving his medical degree from the University of Toronto, he trained in Australia at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, obtaining his Master Degree in Sports Medicine. He is also a diplomat of the Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine and has his focussed practice designation in Sport Medicine from the Ontario Medical Association. Dr. Stoddard is a consultant to the Canadian Military and has consulted with well over 30,000 unique patients in his career. Dr. Stoddard is constantly searching for new and promising therapies to help SEMI patients, and is responsible for developing the RegenerVate Medical Injection Therapy Program. He is married and the proud father of two boys, is an avid triathlete and occasional guitar player.
Tags: Treatment options Performance


Contact Us Today

We can help with your sports medicine or physiotherapy needs.

Tip of the Month

The time old saying "No pain no gain" may not be the best philosophy. If you have pain, your body is likely telling you it needs to do something differently. Perhaps the more appropriate saying should be "No gains with pain". Get that pain checked out!

Sports & Exercise Medicine Institute

2 Sheppard Avenue E

Suite 601
Toronto, ON
M2N 5Y7

Phone: (416) 223-7364 (SEMI)
Fax: (416) 223-8048
Email: sheppard@semisportmed.com

Monday: 7 – 7
Tuesday: 7 – 7
Wednesday: 7 – 7
Thursday: 7 – 7
Friday: 7 – 5:30
Saturday: Open last Saturday of each month, (times vary) except long weekends, July and August.
Sunday: Closed
(Not open long weekends nor Saturdays in July and August.)

40 St. Clair Avenue W

Suite 410
Toronto, ON
M4V 1M2

Phone: (416) 927-7364 (SEMI)
Fax: (647) 930-9536
Email: stclair@semisportmed.com
Monday: 7 – 3
Tuesday: 7 – 3
Wednesday: 7 – 3
Thursday: 7 – 7
Friday: 7 – 3
Saturday: Closed
Sunday: Closed

8150 Yonge Street, Suite 1
Thornhill, ON
L4J 1W5

Phone: (289) 459-7364
Fax: (905) 731-3336
Email: thornhill@semisportmed.com
Monday: 11 – 7
Tuesday: 9 – 5
Wednesday: 11 – 7
Thursday: 11 – 6
Friday: 9 – 2
Saturday: Closed
Sunday: Closed


Answering Common Questions About Dry Needling Therapy

Apr 02 2018
What is Dry Needling Therapy? Dry needling therapy is a modern treatment designed to ease ...

How Weekend Warriors Should Prepare for an Endurance Race

Mar 06 2018
It's nearly the end of winter, meaning endurance athletes can finally say goodbye to tread...

SEMI's Small Guide to Pilates

Feb 28 2018
Pilates is an exercise system developed in the 20th century by Joseph Pilates. Growing up ...

Starting Strength Training? Try These 4 Exercises for Beginners

Feb 05 2018
You've had enough. You've decided you're done with the Olive Oyl comparisons from ...


Effort will only get you so far without the right form in the water. https://t.co/IYi9m3XywR
6 hours ago
Sometimes, looking the part can help your performance! https://t.co/XuvwyT0VgI
7 days ago
Bookmark SiteTell a FriendPrint