Active Release Technique (ART)

Myofascial Therapy In Our Office…A Massage or Something Different?

By | Active Release Technique (ART), Chiropractic, Graston Technique
Personally written by Dr. Milan Lassiter, Chiropractor, 1303 W. Main St., Richmond, VA, Tel #: (804) 254-5765


fascia_1244463_whiteI am not a massage therapist, although I greatly respect and appreciate the work that massage therapists do. I am a chiropractor in Richmond, VA, who has been in practice for about 15 years. In chiropractic college, we learned a lot about the spine and adjusting the spine in order to correct spinal mis-aligment, improve spinal movement dysfunction, and increase nervous system function.


As soon as I was licensed and started working on patients, I couldn’t help but notice an inordinate amount of soft tissue problems. I was always doing pressure point therapy and cross friction massage on the soft tissue disorders that I’d notice. In 2008, I started to study Active Release Technique (ART), a patented myofascial technique that is widely used with athletes (it’s really appropriate for anyone with tight, tense, or dysfunctional soft-tissue movement). Most of the professionals who do Active Release Technique are chiropractors or physical therapists, and I noticed that many of them also did another myofascial technique called Graston Technique. I preceded to study that technique too, and, between the two myofascial techniques, it totally changed the way that I practice. By the way, the word myofascial stands for muslces (myo) and fascia (a connective tissue that is replete throughout the body and is very important in producing movement).


Most of the dysfunctional movement problems in the body fall under one of 2 categories: (1) Joint mobility dysfunction or (2) Tissue extensibility dysfunction. The chiropractic adjustments that we perform in our office corrects joint mobility problems. The myofascial work that we do, and that massage therapists perform, corrects the tissue extensibility problems. Tissue extensibility dysfunction basically means soft tissues (muscle, fascia, ligaments, tendons, etc.) that can’t or aren’t able to move properly. They’re stuck, restricted, contracted, and just plain lacking the proper ability to move the way that they should.


I love the way that massage therapists work the soft tissue system from head to toe, but I’ll leave that to them…they’re the professionals that you should go to for that because they do that better than anyone. The soft tissue work that I do, ART and Graston Technique, is much more regional. I identify specific soft tissues that are dysfunctional and I work to correct that.  Examples would be an ITB syndrome, patello-femoral syndrome, achilles tendonosis (tendonitis), or rotator cuff syndrome that is hindering someone from running or from moving their shoulder properly.


In our Richmond office, I address joint mobility dysfunction by chiropractic adjustments, spinal decompression therapy, and Laser therapy. I address tissue extensibility dysfunction by various myofascial techniques, including ART, Graston Technique, Dry needling, and Laser therapy. When patients come to our office, they get one or both…they get adjusted and/or they get myofascial therapy (ART and/or Graston), depending on what’s indicated. Most people get both…they get adjusted and then they get some soft tissue myofascial therapy. To me, the two systems work symbiotically and one doesn’t work without the other, so it’s natural to make sure both the spine/joints are working properly while at the same time making sure the soft tissue system is doing the same.


What Is Active Release Technique® and How Does It Work?

By | Active Release Technique (ART)
Personally written by Milan Lassiter, DC.  He is located at 1303 W. Main St., Richmond, VA and can be reached at (804) 254-5765


Active Release Technique®, also referred to as ART, is a non-invasive hands-on therapy, provided by practitioners who are licensed through their state medical boards and who have completed post-graduate certifications through Active Release Techniques, LLC.

ART allows a practitioner to diagnose and treat soft-tissue injuries with their hands. Soft tissue refers mostly to muscle, tendons, ligaments, nerves, and fascia (a connective tissue that’s all over your body). Many of the injuries that are treated with Active Release Technique are from repetitive stress to an area, overuse injuries, over-training, sprains/strains, muscle pulls, or joint dysfunction (ie: a joint can’t move in certain directions or feels restricted).

ART providers are able to locate scar tissue adhesions within muscles or in-between them.  Certified ART providers can recognize the difference in the way an area moves, the tension and tightness that develops in the area, and the change in the texture of the tissues (often the tissues will feel stringy, lumpy, “knotted”, or hardened like a leather belt). A precise hand or thumb contact is applied to the correct area. The patient is then instructed on how to move the effected region of their body through a specific range of motion (the muscle is shortened and then lengthened).  This allows the muscle to slide under the ART providers contact.


Think of this process as a paintbrush with a lot of thick paint on it, which has been left out on a piece of paper over night. Envision the bristles of the paintbrush as a muscle, the paper as another structure (could be another muscle, a joint, a nerve, etc.), and the actual paint as the scar tissue. As the paint (the scar tissue) dries and hardens over time, it sticks to the paper (another structure near by). The next time you try to move the brush, the bristles (the involved muscles) have become hardened and non-moveable, causing the paper (a near by structure) to become stuck to it, too.


The analogy in the body would be that a muscle becomes locked up and sticks to the structures around it.  Now think of ART as a way to break up the adhesive scar tissue (the hardened paint) so the involved muscles that are tense, painful, and are unable to move correctly, get “released” from near-by structures (they’re un-stuck from the paper). In other words, everything becomes moveable and soft again. 


Much of what is treated with ART occurs from cumulative injuries that build up over time, gradually accumulating into something that alters the way your body functions.

There are 3 main ways to cause cumulative injuries:


An acute injury   For example, when you pull a muscle, sprain your ankle, or get “whiplash” from a car accident. Tissues get torn and inflammation sets in, which eventually causes adhesive scar tissue to form over time.

Repetitive motion  For example, the constant repetitive stress created from running. Another example is with someone who types all day on a computer. This is not as physically rigorous as running, but the repetitive keyboard strike with the fingers can accumulate 20,000+ movements per day. It causes a smaller trauma to the tissues than with running, but the number of repetitions is a lot more than with a runner.

A constant pressure or tension injury  For example, a retail employee or nurse who stands for 10+ hours a day on hard surfaces. This type of injury doesn’t require any motion at all, but the constant pressure and load on the leg muscles can decrease circulation to the area (starving the area of oxygen), shorten the muscle, and create adhesive tissue to form from the constant contraction.


One of the problems with this is that if you don’t break the cumulative injury cycle, it continues in a circle, getting worse and worse over time. In other words, it’s self-perpetuating. ART treatments are designed to break the cumulative injury cycle, keeping people pain-free, limber and performing well with their sport or daily activities. Read more about Dr. Lassiter performing ART in his office by clicking here.