What Is Active Release Technique (ART)?

Remove painful adhesions with ART

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Active release technique (ART) is a manual therapy for relieving tension in the soft tissues. Healthcare providers such as physical therapists use this technique to improve range of motion and muscle pain.

This article will provide an overview of active release technique, including the conditions it treats and what to expect. It will also help you to determine if ART is right for you.

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What Is Active Release Technique?

Active release technique is a specialized soft tissue release technique that involves identifying muscle and fascia knots and mobilizing them with a combination of pressure and patient movement. The technique can help restore pain-free movement to a variety of your body's structures, including:

These structures in your body may become injured due to overuse and repetitive trauma, causing pain and limited motion. Trauma to these soft tissues may also cause the fascia and tissue to bind to nearby structures in the form of adhesions.

During ART, your healthcare provider uses their hands to identify areas of tissue tension and then uses specific pressure points and movement to restore normal motion.

What Conditions or Injuries Does It Treat?

Active release technique has proved beneficial for a variety of conditions. These are typically injuries to the soft tissues in your body. Conditions that your healthcare provider may use ART to treat include:

Any soft tissue condition that may cause painful and limited motion in the body may benefit from ART.

Benefits of ART

ART offers several possible benefits. These may include:

  • Decreased pain
  • Improved functional mobility
  • Improved flexibility
  • Decreased tissue tension
  • Decreased muscular inhibition that occurs after injury
  • Improved joint range of motion

With ART, your healthcare provider may decrease your pain, break up soft tissue adhesions that occur after injury, and improve the way you are able to move.

Several studies show the benefits of ART compared to those of other soft tissue release techniques. One study of 35 people with low back pain showed that ART was more effective in relieving pain when compared to myofascial release.

Another study of people with plantar fasciitis found that both ART and myofascial release were effective in relieving pain.

What to Expect From an ART Treatment

Healthcare providers who may be trained in active release technique include chiropractors, physical therapists, and massage therapists.

Prior to engaging in ART treatment, your provider should perform an evaluation and assessment, gathering information about your pain and your medical history.

During ART treatment, you should assume a comfortable position, either sitting or lying down (depending on the body part you're treating). Your provider will then use their hands to locate areas of tissue tension. Then, they will apply pressure to an area that seems tight or impaired.

Some people find the pressure from ART painful. If you are highly sensitive, ask your provider to apply less pressure.

When your provider applies pressure to the tender and adhered area, they will ask you to move in specific directions. This movement under pressure helps to pull on the underlying tissue in specific ways, freeing it from painful adhesions.

Most ART sessions take about 15–30 minutes to complete. Your provider should then prescribe exercises that you can practice to maintain the gains acquired during your ART treatment session.


Active release technique treats the injuries of the soft tissues in your body. During ART, your healthcare provider uses their hands to identify soft tissue adhesions and limitations. By applying pressure to the adhesion and then having you move in specific directions, the tissue's limitations are released, leading to full pain-free movement.

A Word From Verywell

If you have been experiencing muscle pain or stiffness, ask your healthcare provider about active release technique. This technique improves pain and range of motion in people with muscle injuries. Talk with your healthcare provider to find out if ART is right for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you perform active release technique on yourself?

    Perform ART on yourself by finding painful muscle knots and pressing upon them. While holding pressure, gently stretch and move away from the pressure point. Always talk with your healthcare provider before beginning a new regimen.

  • How effective is active release technique?

    There is some research showing short-term gains with ART. Other studies show very little or no benefit.

  • Is active release technique painful?

    Active release technique may be an uncomfortable experience. Talk with your healthcare provider about what to expect.

4 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Barnes P, Rivera M. The effect of active release technique® on clinician and patient-reported outcomes: A systematic reviewJ Sport Rehabil. 2022;31(3):331-336. doi:10.1123/jsr.2021-0106

  2. Kim JH, Lee HS, Park SW. Effects of the active release technique on pain and range of motion of patients with chronic neck painJ Phys Ther Sci. 2015;27(8):2461-2464. doi:10.1589/jpts.27.2461

  3. Lee SH, Nam SM. Effects of active release technique on pain, oswestry disability index and pelvic asymmetry in chronic low back pain patientsKSPM. 2020;15(1):133-141. doi:10.13066/kspm.2020.15.1.133

  4. Kage V, Bindra R. Effect of active release technique v/s myofascial release on subjects with plantar fasciitis: a randomized clinical trialPhysiotherapy. 2015;101:e702. doi:10.1016/j.physio.2015.03.3552

By Brett Sears, PT
Brett Sears, PT, MDT, is a physical therapist with over 20 years of experience in orthopedic and hospital-based therapy.