Find out if Active Release or Myofascial Release is right for you.When you are in pain, you naturally want to make sure that you get the best treatment. In this article, we will discuss and help you decide which of these treatments is best for you: Active Release Technique vs Myofascial Release.

What is Active Release Technique?

Active Release Technique (ART) is a patented state-of-the-art soft tissue, non-invasive, manual therapy technique that focuses on relieving tissue tension by breaking up fibrosis or adhesions which can develop in tissues due to repetitive use or as a result of overload.

What is Myofascial Release?

Myofascial release (MFR) is an effective hands-on technique that involves providing slow, sustained, and gentle pressure into tight and painful Myofascial tissues. Myofascial release is different from other types of pain because it comes from myofascial “trigger points,” which are stiff, anchored areas within the myofascial tissues.

Active Release Technique vs. Myofascial Release: What Ailments Can These Techniques Treat?

Active Release Technique

  • Back pain

  • Headache

  • Sprain

A sprain is also known as a torn ligament (the fibrous band of connective tissue which attaches your bones to other bones). This occurs when you twist, turn, or awkwardly roll your joint. When a sprain is mild, the area may be stiff, swollen, and tender. When a sprain is more serious, it may include bruising and tenderness around the affected joint, and moving the affected area is painful.

  • Frozen Shoulder

Frozen shoulder is also known as adhesive capsulitis. This occurs when your shoulder capsule (the tissue surrounding your shoulder joint that holds the bones that form a ball-and-socket joint), becomes so thick and tight that it’s difficult to move. You are likely to develop this condition if you are recovering from a medical procedure or medical condition that prevents you from moving your arm (e.g., mastectomy, stroke, etc.).

  • Bursitis

Bursitis is when a bursa (a thin, slippery sac located around a joint that reduces friction between your bone and surrounding soft tissues) is inflamed and there is an accumulation of fluid in the bursa sac. Bursitis is usually caused by repeated pressure on an area of the joint or by using the joint too much. This condition is common around major joints such as your knee, hip, elbow, and shoulder. Pain is the most common symptom of Bursitis. The pain may build up slowly or it may be sudden and severe, especially if you have calcium deposits in the affected area. The area may also be red, stiff, and swollen.

  • Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow is also known as lateral epicondylitis. It is a painful condition that occurs when you overload the tendons in your elbow when you make repetitive motions with your wrist and arm.

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common medical condition wherein the patient feels pain, numbness, and tingling in his or her hand and arm. This occurs when the median nerve (a major nerve that runs from your forearm into the palm of your hand), is compressed or squeezed at the wrist.

  • Sciatica

Sciatica is the term used to describe pain in the leg that is caused by irritation, inflammation, pinching, or compression of the sciatic nerve. The pain originates in your lower back, then radiates into your buttock, and travels down your leg. Sciatica affects just one side of your body. This condition commonly occurs when you have a herniated disk, a bone spur on your spine, or a narrowing of your spine (spinal stenosis) that compresses part of the nerve.

  • Shin Splints

“Shin splints” is a term that refers to pain along your shin bone (tibia). This condition is common among runners and dancers. This is usually the result of stress on your shinbone and the connective tissues attaching your muscles to your bones.

  • Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis is a condition where you have pain around your heel and arch and on the bottom of your foot. The stabbing pain typically occurs with your first steps when you get up in the morning. Then, the pain normally decreases as you move. However, it usually returns after long periods of standing or when you stand up after sitting down.

Myofascial Release

Patients who seek myofascial release therapy are mostly those who have lost flexibility or function following an injury or those who have ongoing shoulder, back, hip or any other body area that contains soft tissue.

Other conditions that myofascial release therapy can treat include:

  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

  • Migraine Headaches

A migraine headache is typically a moderate or severe headache felt as a throbbing pain on one side of your head. The pain can last for hours or days. The pain can be so severe that it will interfere with your day-to-day activities. The exact cause of migraines is unknown.

  • Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) disorder

Your temporomandibular joint is the joint that connects your lower jaw (mandible) to your skull. You have this joint in front of your ears, on both sides of your head. These joints allow you to open and close your jaw, enabling you to eat and speak. If you have TMJ Disorder, you may have pain in one or both your jaw joints, pain in your face or neck, pain when you chew, stiff jaw muscles, a noticeable change in how your teeth fit together.

  • Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a medical condition wherein you feel widespread pain in your body. The pain is usually accompanied by fatigue, and difficulty in sleeping. 

Does Active Release Therapy Work?

Active Release Technique works by breaking up fibrosis/adhesions that develop in tissues due to overload and/or repetitive use. ART practitioners have been trained to deftly locate scar tissue build-up, impingements, or sources of tension.

Some pilot studies reported the effects of ART on different pathologies. The study involved 20 subjects and found that all 20 were significantly more flexible after undergoing ART treatment.

Does Myofascial Release Therapy Work?

Myofascial release is also referred to as “soft tissue mobilization.” The fascia is normally soft and can stretch without restriction. However, fascia can become stiff following physical trauma or inflammation. When this happens, fascia may also become a source of tension throughout the body.

Few studies have been conducted regarding the effectiveness of the myofascial release technique. This is because therapy programs differ from one therapist to another. As a result, medical support is limited to few practitioners. However, due to the lack of risk, patients with short-term back pain or chronic pain can try to see if myofascial release will provide any relief.


If you still cannot decide between Active Release Technique vs. Myofascial Release? Let us help you.

At Vigor Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation, we provide both Active Release Technique and Myofascial Release.

At Vigor Physical Therapy & Rehabilitation we provide all our patients with superior, personalized service. Each patient is paired with his or her own caring therapist who will work with you to achieve your recovery and continued optimal health for a lifetime.

Our highly-skilled physical therapists can help you decide which treatment is best for your pain management. If you have questions or if you want to know more about the services we offer, you can contact us or visit our clinic.