If you’ve been to Physiofitness, you know how much we rave about the benefits of ART®, or Active Release Technique. It’s probably even part of your treatment plan…but do you know what it is?

In physical therapy, there are a number of what we call “hands-on” or manual treatments. At Physiofitness, ART is our go-to technique for both assessing and treating soft tissue pain. Owner Chris Delehanty says it’s the best technique he’s ever used, and requires all Physiofitness physical therapists to be full-body certified.

But why? What’s so great about ART when there are dozens of other treatment options out there?

ART is all about getting to the core of the problem to make sure your pain relief is long-term. How many times have you sat at your desk with an ache in your neck or low back and immediately picked up the phone to schedule a massage? Don’t get us wrong, we love massages, but your aches and pains will almost assuredly come back without a more long-lasting solution like ART.

“Soft tissues — muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, and nerves — connect or support other structures in the body,” explains Chris. “For years, healthcare providers thought the majority of soft tissue pain stemmed from inflammation due to injuries, overuse or poor posture. In the last few years, breakthroughs in science have given us more insight into what’s really happening at the cellular level. “

The core of the problem in soft tissue pain is hypoxia, which occurs when an area of your body is deprived of oxygen. Over time, a lack of oxygen leads to scar tissue. As this scar tissue builds up, muscles become shorter and weaker, changing the tension and texture of your tissue as well as the way it moves. The result is reduced range of motion, loss of strength, and pain. These shortened, tight muscles can also trap nerves, which can lead to tingling, numbness, and weakness.

Unlike broken bones or torn ligaments, changes in your tissue’s texture or tension don’t show up on x-rays or MRIs. “When we use ART, we use our hands to look for tissue and texture that doesn’t feel right,” Chris says. “When we find it, we work on changing the tension, texture, and therefore the movement of the tissue, which gets the oxygen flowing and your body feeling better.”

“We are releasing blood vessels and in a lot of cases, freeing up nerves that are bound down. The body then takes over…your blood circulation improves, veins reabsorb blood out of the sore area, your muscles start moving correctly, and the knot and pain dissipates,” explains Chris.

But feeling pain free is only half the battle. If you don’t fix your body’s bad habits –- like sitting hunched over a computer all day -– the problems will keep coming back, which is why we use ART hand-in-hand with movement screens and corrective exercises. Everything works together to get you functioning and feeling better than you thought possible.