The ART of Active Release Technique (A.R.T©)

As the triathlon season approaches you should be in the height of your off season training program. Some of you may be feeling great, while others struggle with chronic and acute injuries. Every single injury you get will affect performance. From a sore low back to a sprained ankle, injuries affect your overall mechanics leading to less strength and declines in race times.

One way to help your performance is too find a therapist for the upcoming race season. Therapists are great in managing injuries you already have, and catching ones before they arrive. They can review your training programs, mechanics and suggest ways to improve your efficiency.

One tool a therapist can use in injury prevention is called Active Release Technique or A.R.T© for short. The technique itself was developed by chiropractor, Dr. Michael Leahy, in the early 1980s. It has become an excellent tool in the treatment of soft tissue injuries, especially as it relates to the triathlon.

With any sport there is an element of repetition. Think of how many times your foot hits the pavement during a run, or the revolutions you go through during a long ride. When done properly this is a great workout! There is cause for concern when elements of your training change. How you ride, run or swim may be affected by current injuries, old injuries or a part of your body that is not moving well.

The majority of injuries related to triathlon are repetitive in nature. When muscles are overworked and left untreated, scar tissue develops. Scar tissue restricts range of motion, causes pain and reduces blood flow. A reduction in blood flow leads to more scar tissue, causing an injury cycle. Often this will continue to get worse without treatment.

A.R.T© is designed to stop the injury cycle. A practitioner uses precise touch to develop tension at the injury site. They use the patient’s active motion to help break up scar tissue, restore motion and improve blood flow. This leaves the patient feeling better and operating more effectively.

If you haven’t had the opportunity to visit an A.R.T© practitioner, give it a try this season. If you currently have an injury they can help you get back on the road, in the saddle or in the water. If you have any questions you can always e-mail me or visit for more information.

I will leave you with a few tips when choosing your ART therapist:

1. ART© rarely bruises – Despite the myth ART© rarely causes a bruise. The premise behind ART© is that tension is applied along the length of the tissue being treated. Inexperienced therapists apply pressure to tissue, rather than tension. Pressure increases the likelihood of bruising. In five years of practice and thousands of treatments provided, I may have bruised 5 patients.

2. ART© can be uncomfortable, but is rarely painful – Another myth is that you go into treatment with a piece of wood in your mouth, and a bottle of vodka to control pain. Pain from the technique again is most often caused by compression. Patients may feel uncomfortable, or feel “a good hurt”, and should be able to tolerate the treatment. If the injury is acute the treatment may be more intense, but a well experienced practitioner can keep pain levels low.

3. ART© practitioners are regularly certified – There are over 5 different certifications a practitioner can study. Once certified, practitioners must re-certify on a yearly basis. There is cause for concern if a therapist took a course 20 years ago and has not recertified. Certifications are also region specific. A therapist may be certified to perform ART© on the lower limb, but not the upper limb. Make sure you know the specific courses they have taken for the best results.

4. You can’t just say you do ART©– Building off of my last point. Patients have come to me injured from people that claim they practice the technique. Generally if there is not a certificate on the wall they don’t practice it.

5. ART© is specific – There are hundreds of protocols designed to treat specific muscles, ligaments and nerves. ART© practitioners have a skilled sense of touch to identify injured tissue. There is a precise method to their technique that is focused, slow and smooth. If you visit someone, where you are in and out in five minutes – think again!!

6. ART© is not the only thing being done – ART© is a tool used to address, primarily the soft tissue. Although effective, it is not a universal therapy. A therapist should provide you with a detailed assessment, treatment, exercise prescription and nutritional supplementation. In the end a patient centered rehabilitation program will lead to the highest success in becoming pain free.

Conor Collins is a Sports Injury Therapist and Active Release Therapy provider at the Foot Knee Back Clinic in Ancaster, Ontario. For more information visit or call 905-304-6556