Active Release Techniques targets scar tissue known as adhesions in muscle tissue and fascia.

Scar Tissue is the body's natural & normal response to an injury.  In muscle & fascia, adhesions will not only form in response to an acute injury,  but also chronic overuse.

In overuse injuries, little micro-tears occur over time and the body heals them, adhesion can form.

An excellent analogy for adhesion is a paintbrush. Normally,  the fibers of the brush are all separated making the brush soft and flexible. This is how a normal muscle should be.

Think of dried paint on the brush fibers as adhesions. When not separated/cleaned properly, the paint on the brush fibers hardens, the fibers stick together & the individual  brush fibers become brittle/stuck together and essentially impossible to use just as a muscle with adhesions that are stuck together do not function well.


Adhesions cause muscles to become shorter, tighter and weaker. This in turns, puts stress on the tendons & ligaments around & attached to these muscles  which increases  the tension both during use & at rest. Over time, inflammation, pain & dysfunction develop.  The following are a few conditions that fall into this category:

~   Achilles Tendintitis

~   Ankles injuries/ Foot pain

~   Back pain

~   DeQuervain" s Tenosynovitis

~   Frozen Shoulder (Adhesive Capsulitis)

~   Golfer/Tennis Elbow

~   Hand/Wrist injuries

~   Headaches

~   Running Injuries

~   Hip pain/Iliotibial Band Syndrome

~   Knee/leg pain

~  Shin Splints

~  Shoulder pain /Rotator Cuff Syndrome

Neck pain/Whiplash

The body's response to these assaults are the formation of adhesions .

ART  utilizes  three  components  of  treatment  by:

~   the use of the practitioner's  palpation skills (noting the tone and texture of the tissues)

~   accessing the abnormal movement and relative motions between the soft tissues

 ~  creates specific depth and directional tension as the patient performs a series of very specific movements

This combination of precise depth, pressure, directional tension & movements helps to eliminate the adhesion(s), while enhancing  vascular circulation & restoring normal function.


Adhesion can also cause friction or improper interactions with nearby structures

Normally, muscles glide smoothly & cleanly against other muscles, tendons. ligaments, lymphatic channels & nerves. When adhesions are present, there is friction with normal movements.

Over time, inflammation will build leading to pain, fluid accumulation & restricted motion & flexibility. In this setting, it is easy to see how the nerves can become enveloped in the tissues & compressed.

Symptoms of peripheral nerve entrapment can be mistaken for more serious diagnosis such a a herniated disc.

The following are common conditions that are examples of peripheral nerve entrapments  that can be effectively treated with the LONG TRACT NERVE ENTRAPMENT PROTOCOLS ® of Active Release Techniques.

~   Sciatica

~   Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

~   Thoracic Outlet Syndrome

~   Cervical Brachial Syndrome

~   Radial Nerve Entrapments (Radial Tunnel Syndrome)

~   Ulnar Nerve Entrapments (Handle Bar Palsy)

~   Grip Weakness

~   Femoral Nerve Entrapments

All of these conditions share the common symptoms of shooting pain, numbness, tingling & weakness.

Active Release Techniques restores the smooth & frictionless movements of muscles & surrounding structures, reducing inflammation while stimulating lymphatic flowing which all help reduce surrounding pressure on the peripheral nerves.


It is easy to see how adhesions of the muscles & fascia can cause injury & nerve entrapment. But they also can cause limited range on motion & decreased flexibility, which may or may not be painful, but could lead to greater injury.

A good stretching regimen done at the right time can be effective in preventing adhesion from forming, but it can't do anything for them once they are formed.

A muscle that has an adhesion is tight, if  you remember our paintbrush analogy, it  is easy to see that stretching this type of muscle just does not work. The scar tissue that comprises an adhesion is several time stronger than normal health tissue.

In essence, adhesions can make a muscle unable to be stretched. They need to be addressed in order to bring back both flexibility & increased range of motion.

Several research studies have examined the effects of A.R.T.. A 2006 study demonstrated it rapid ability to restore flexibility in health adults (most had improvement after just one A.R.T. session), which translated to both improved performance and protection against future injury (2.) Another in the Journal of Physical Therapy found A.R.T. superior to other forms of soft tissue treatment in restoring full range of motion after injury (3).


1.  Leahy PM,Patterson T.  Expert system soft tissue active motion technique for release of adhesions & associated apparatus for facilitating specific treatment modalities. Patient No. 6,283,916. Sept 4, 2001.

2. George JW, Tunsell AC, Tepe RC, Skaggs CD. The Effects of A.R.T. on Hamstring Flexibility: A Pilot Study. Journal of Manipulative & Physiologic Therapeutics. 2006 March-April; 24(3):224-7.

3. Jun Ho Kim PT, Han Suk Lee PhD PT,  Sun Wook Park MSPT. Effects of the A.R.T. on Pain and Range of Motions of Patients with Chronic Neck Pain. Journal of Physical Therapy Science. 20145 Aug: 27(8):2461-4.