Active Release Technique
Trade Marked
Yet Barely Researched

Article by G Rieger posted  November 25, 2014 updated January 9. 2016

ART Active Release Technique: P. Michael Leahy is a doctor of Chiropractic and the developer and patent holder.   Dr. Leahy originally discussed his work as myofascial release in 1985 prior to applying for a patent.  Dr. Leahy is not the first to put his mark on the ancient art of touch therapy. 

The pilot studies and case studies show promise, further research and broader based studies with a larger pool of patients and the use of control groups would be the next step.  The increased interest in non-surgical resolutions to musculoskeletal & sport injury has helped turn a positive focus on chiropractic, physical therapy, massage therapy and alternative forms of soft tissue treatment technique. 

The sample groups are small in the pilot studies never more than 20 and individual case studies are often considered little more than antidotal within the scientific community.  From a historical perspective there are many individuals who have come before Dr. Leahy with similar treatment methods.  He is not the first Dr. of Chiropractic to find an exclusive attention to spinal joint manipulation to fall short of a complete practical treatment protocol; nether is he the first to combine movement, kinesiology, ROM testing and stretching & exercise to massage and soft tissue manual therapy. 

ART protocol combines smart movement and range of motion examinations with treatment.  A practitioner utilizes several of over 500 movement protocols based on the needs of the individual receiving treatment.  The individual receiving treatment will be directed to move in a certain pattern while the practitioner performs the ART technique.

The reason this therapy has gained momentum is its particular success among professional athletes who have actively participated in a multitude of sport and competition.  Active Release Technique has been specifically developed to work with and treat the soft tissues of the body, such as muscle bellies, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nerves.  As one of many myofascial release protocols ART should only be performed by a certified practitioner as the active movements are key and a skilled therapist is vital. 

Get Massage Smart thanks Dr. Leahy for his advancements to the art of Touch Therapy.  The reposting of this video is for is educational value and does not validate the accuracy of the material. 

Active Release Technique (Myofascial Release): A Rose by Another Name is Still a Rose

In all fairness, other forms of touch therapy have very little scientific evidence behind them.  The caution here is primarily based on the understanding that this technique needs to be performed by a registered and certified practitioner who has completed the training program.  Let's take a closer look at some of the specific findings from the case studies and pilot studies that have been conducted over the last 15 plus years.  In addition, it is recommended that athletes and those looking to recover from serious musculoskeletal injury, consult their primary health care providers and explore other forms of myofascial and soft tissue techniques before deciding what will be their best course of treatment.

Several patient case reports were included as a part of their initial clinical trials as precursors and follow up to pilot studies performed over several years.   One case report concerns a patient with trigger thumb, the patient received eight treatments of Graston Technique (A Myofascial Modality that utilizes a stainless steel tool set) and Active Release Technique over four weeks.   The patient experienced reduced pain and improved functionality. (6)  A female athlete with external coxa saltons experienced a 50% reduction of pain upon her first treatment with ART and no pain by the end of the fourth treatment. (9) 

A 51 year old male patient with Tennis Elbow had a complete reduction of pain and normal range of motion with 6 treatments of ART. (7)  A young adolescent soccer player experienced a soft tissue injury to the tibialis posterior during a game as a result of kicking an opponent player's leg while striking the ball.  The young athlete received 4 treatments of ART over four weeks for medial foot pain and inflamed tibialis posterior. (10)  The therapy resulted in pain relief and the ability to return to practice.

One pilot study was concerned with the effectiveness of Active Release Technique on adductor muscle strains.  (8) The short term study followed the treatment of nine hockey players who received ART for adductor strain pain threshold sensitivity.  The results showed a significant decrease in PTS for all nine patients. 

Pilot studies were also conducted on individuals with carpal tunnel syndrome, quadriceps inhibition and strength as well as hamstring flexibility. (3) (2) (4)   All three studies resulted in measurable improvements in pain reduction and range of motion.  These results reinforce the use of myofascial massage as a practical protocol for certain musculoskeletal injuries.  Further studies on ART and other forms of massage as control groups would be called for.

ART is often combined with other forms of movement and therapeutic exercise as a part of a complete treatment program.  As with many myofascial modalities Active Release Technique is designed to release adhesions and fascial holding patterns.  In conclusion the therapeutically relevant work of trained practitioners in the field of manual soft tissue manipulative therapies seems evident enough to call for further consideration.

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