How ART Works

Evaluating the Effectiveness of a Treatment

Treatments like Advil or Cortisone Injections used to address problems like inflammation or pain are not really addressing the ‘root cause’. They are merely addressing and temporarily masking the ‘symptoms’.

Effective treatments will be those that actually do something to change the root cause of your pain. Active Release Therapy does just that, it addresses the root cause and NOT the symptoms. The FOUR basic causes of persistent musculoskeletal pain can be summarized as:

  1. Adhesion in the muscles or Adhesions in the joint
  2. Strength or flexibility imbalances in the muscles
  3. Severe structural damage to the bone, cartilage, tendons or ligaments
  4. Central Sensitization or more commonly referred to as the “Wind up Phenomenon”

Of these, adhesion by far is the MOST COMMON, eventually leading to (#2) “strength or flexibility imbalances” as well as causing (#3) “structural damage” and (#4) “central sensitization”. Finally, adhesion is the EASIEST problem to treat once you can identify it! Unfortunately, most doctors completely ignore adhesion, or do not know how to effectively treat it.


ART works by using FRICTION and TENSION to tear adhesions away from the body, without having to cut or break the skin (it is non-surgical). The adhesions dissipate, pain is abolished and the proper mechanics of the injured area is restored.

This is where the “ART” comes into play. Active Release ‘un-glues’ the adhesions, but before this occurs, one must be able to:

  1. Fibroblast cells migrate to the area of injury releasing sticky glue-like fibrin and beginning the repair process. Unfortunately, adhesions often stick to surrounding healthy tissue as well and need to be release by a trained ART provider.

    Find the Adhesion. The ART-Certified doctor must be able to locate the adhesion using a well-trained, well-developed sense of touch. They must be able to very accurately place their fingers directly on the adhesion.

  2. Tear The Adhesion. Then, the ART-Certified doctor must know the exact direction in which to stretch that particular body part in order to build enough tension to cause the adhesion to tear away. Only by knowing the exact detail of the anatomy can the doctor know how to properly move that muscle in order to create enough tension to make the adhesion actually break away.

Once the structural damage (adhesions) has been located within the injured area and surrounding tissues, the Active Release treatments can begin to ‘release’ the adhesions and start the true healing process. The pain will begin to decrease and your ability to do more activities will increase. Introducing motion into a joint at this point that is now more functional and moving better, allows for “quicker” more “pain free” healing of the tissues.


Does ART Hurt?

The treatments can sometimes be uncomfortable depending on the severity of the condition and the patient’s pain tolerance. If there is any discomfort with treatment, the intensity of the treatment can be varied according to each patient’s pain tolerance. In other words, if it hurts, the doctor can go lighter, adjusting discomfort to a level the patient is comfortable with.

Further, even if the treatment is uncomfortable and reproduces symptoms, this is only temporary and will stop a few seconds after the treatment is ended.


When Should You NOT Use ART?

There are no negative side effects of ART even on some of the worst soft tissue cases if the ART-Certified doctor knows what they are doing. Common mistakes that are made by poorly trained practitioners stem from using too much compressive forces to the injured area. This may lead to bruising of healthy tissue and increased inflammation, further perpetuating the scar tissue / adhesion cycle.

Because ART is a highly sought after therapy taking years to properly learn and refine, there are those that attempt to take a short cut, essentially “self-certifying” themselves claiming they know ART.  To assure that you are actually receiving ART, and not some improperly administered procedure by an unqualified doctor, find a doctor who has been nationally certified with actual credentials from the ART Board of Examiners and signed by Dr. Mike Leahy (Developer of ART). If the doctor is not trained properly, you are most likely just getting an expensive massage, wasting your time and money, being left with marginal or no improvement in your condition and in some instances injured further.

Also look for the level of certification. Just because a doctor is certified in ART, does not mean they have earned all levels of certification. There are multiple levels of certification. You at least want the provider to be certified in the body region of where your complaint is, but more likely you would want them to be at least whole body certified, as this designates a provider that has been doing it for a while and takes your health seriously.

Allowing time for new injuries to rest. Another important consideration is that great care should be exercised if attempting to treat areas within the first 24-48 hours after a severe trauma (e.g.-car accidents). Treatment in this phase could make the condition worse by causing further damage to the tissues. However, a skilled ART doctor could very easily work around the torn tissue without damaging it and actually speed recovery. Within a few days to weeks, though, ART would definitely be recommended. Of course, if ever in doubt, consult an ART doctor that specializes in these types of injuries.