Active Release Technique (ART) vs. Manual Therapy & Adjustments

If normal chiropractic adjustments aren’t doing the trick, or you’re looking for relief from soft tissue related concerns, Active Release Technique may be exactly what you’re looking for.

But what exactly is ART and if it’s typically offered by a chiropractor, what makes it different from normal manipulations and adjustments?

Let’s take a look at what makes Active Release Technique different from other manual therapies and adjustments and help you determine if it’s right for you.

What is Active Release? by Performance Place Sports Care & Chiropractic

What is Active Release Technique (ART)?

Active Release Technique (ART) is a non-invasive treatment that aims to diagnose, treat and resolve soft tissue disorders.

ART is a manual therapy much like massage, other forms of chiropractic and some physiotherapy that uses manipulation and movement to locate scar tissue, adhesions and other soft tissue issues in order to address pain, mobility issues, and overall function.

ART is indicated for use with both acute and chronic conditions impacting muscles, tendons, fascia, nerves and ligaments.

ART involves the practitioner identifying a single point of contact – often a point of tension or a “trigger point” where they will position you in a way that it shortens the muscle, apply pressure to that point and then have you work through movements to lengthen that muscle while the pressure is applied.

This works to break up scar tissue and adhesions and relieves tension.

Typically Active Release Technique (ART) is offered by chiropractors with additional training in the treatment system – you can search for ART chiropractor services in Toronto or near you to find a practitioner in your area.

Additionally, some physiotherapists, massage therapists or doctors may be trained in ART.

What are Manual Therapy & Adjustments?

Manual therapy refers to a variety of different treatments and professions, but in general, is considered any type of hands-on therapy used to assess and treat patient concerns.

Typically this means some physiotherapy, chiropractic treatments, massage, osteopathy, etc.

Adjustments tend to refer to the traditional chiropractic adjustments where a chiropractor uses their hands and specific body positioning to apply force to a joint (particularly a spinal joint) to improve mobility and relieve pain and associated symptoms.

So what’s the difference?

Active Release Technique (ART) is a manual therapy, but is not considered an adjustment, though the two may be used in combination with each other when seeking treatment by a chiropractor.

ART most closely relates to deep tissue massage in that it uses pressure and movement to address soft tissue concerns but ART takes a more targeted approach at assessing and treating patient complaints.

Unlike traditional chiropractic adjustments, if your chiropractor is using ART to address your concerns they will not be using force to “adjust” any joints during your treatment.

Instead, the focus will be on soft-tissue related issues and breaking up scar tissue and adhesions using pressure and movement.

What can ART treat?

ART can treat most concerns regarding fascia, tendons, ligaments and major muscle groups. Common conditions it’s used to treat are:

  • Neck pain (acute and chronic)
  • Lower back pain
  • Headaches (particularly tension type)
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Sciatica
  • Plantar Fasciitis
  • Frozen shoulder and other shoulder strains
  • Tendinitis
  • Sports-related injuries
  • Post-op adhesions and scarring

ART is helpful for many concerns, if you are not getting the results you desire from other manual therapies book a consultation with a chiropractor trained in ART.

What are the benefits of ART? 

Active Release Technique (ART) can be beneficial for a lot of reasons, these include:

  • Improvement of nerve related symptoms
  • Increased range of motion
  • Increased flexibility
  • Increased mobility
  • Reduced pain
  • Improvements in specific symptoms related to the condition being treated
  • Better management of chronic conditions such as sciatica, carpal tunnel, plantar fasciitis, migraine and headaches, and neck pain.

In many cases, those being treated with ART can feel some improvement, often less tension or some pain relief, after just one treatment but most benefits will come after a few regular treatments.

Your chiropractor will work with you to create a treatment plan specific to your needs, symptoms and severity.

Can I Combine ART with other treatments?

Yes! Active Release Technique (ART) has been shown to work best when used in conjunction with other therapies and treatments such as therapeutic exercise, stretching, strength training, acupuncture and/or dry needling, physiotherapy and other manual therapies.

While ART is great at addressing specific issues with pain, stiffness, and other soft tissue dysfunction, to gain long-term relief or management of symptoms, especially in the case of chronic conditions,

the patient needs to be actively addressing the whole body as best as they can this means exercising, eating healthy, stretching, and stress management.


ART is a highly effective treatment used for a wide range of chronic and acute conditions.

If you’re not getting the results you desire from other manual therapies such as massage, chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture or physiotherapy, consider seeking out a chiropractor trained in ART.