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Myofascial Release vs Active Release Techniques… It’s Complicated!

Soft tissues injuries involving your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves can be quite complicated despite potentially knowing the cause. If you sleep oddly, or you injured yourself weight training or taking a HIIT class, different soft tissues can become involved causing limitations to your range of motion, decreased mobility, and flexibility of the affected area, and impact your function. When seeking out a health care provider who specializes in either Active Release Techniques (ART) or Myofascial release (MfR), it is important to know the differences between these techniques so you can get the relief you seek and feel better faster.

A close up shot on the hands of a Swedish massage student practicing petrissage technique, aka kneading, skills learning with copy space above

Regardless of the technique utilized to treat a soft tissue injury, it is important to know the anatomy and the purpose of what you need treated to help you recover. Active Release Techniques (ART) providers undergo rigorous training and practice to accurately diagnose and improve soft tissue injuries through its diagnostic algorithm. It is a complex, but succinct way to identify and subsequently treat a soft tissue injury. ART takes the tissue to a shortened state after properly identifying the correct tissue, and then lengthens the affected tissue to break down scarring (aka adhesions) limiting the movement of the affected joint (2 bones moving together) and/or muscle/tendon/ligament. Often, the tissue becomes injured due to overuse and repetitive movement, but trauma may be involved in certain cases (ART looks at the cumulative trauma cycle where are repeated micro-traumas to the area creating injury). ART may take a few treatments for the tissue to show signs of progress depending on the length of time of your injury.

Myofascial Release (MR or MfR) does not involve much movement of the affected tissue, but proper pressure along the fascia of the muscle. Fascia is the connective tissue that sits atop muscles/tendons that can become restricted due to posture, trauma, or inflammation. Treatment often involves moving along the muscle/tendon’s fascia with pressure and depth to treat the tissue, but it does not involve much movement compared to ART. Fascia can often move in different directions and not just in the direction in which the muscle shortens and lengthens. It is important to understand that MfR does not move the muscle with treatment (compared to ART), but rather loosens it up with manual pressure.

ART can often address injuries quicker and not require as many visits. If you are unsure which technique may be right for you, ask questions about experience treating this injury, and what else the provider may do to treat my soft tissue injury (exercises) when calling that office. This gives you more info to make the right decision to alleviate your pain and get you back to what you enjoy!

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