Active Release and Graston Technique are both soft tissue therapies, but they are performed differently.
What is ART?
The Active Release Technique (ART) was developed by P. Michael Leahy, DC, CCSP. It is a “soft tissue system/movement based massage technique” that can treat a variety of problems in the nerves, fascia, tendons, ligaments, and muscles. Overused muscles can cause pain from pulls, tears, and micro-trauma, leading to scar tissue, which prevents muscles from moving freely and traps nerves. Range of motion issues, weakness, tingling, and numbness can also result. ART could be a helpful therapy to treat knee problems, tennis elbow, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, shin splints, shoulder pain, plantar fasciitis, sciatica, and headaches. During an ART session, the practitioner can feel tightness, texture, and movement. The patient is directed to move in certain ways, while the ART is performed.1
What is GT?
The Graston Technique (GT) treats tissue and skeletal muscle disorders as well. Instead of using their hands, practitioners utilize special stainless steel tools to palpate and “resolve adhesions in the muscles and tendons”.2 It also can treat scar tissue and assist with range of motion. The instruments “comb over and ‘catch’ on fibrotic tissue”, with the idea that scar tissue will be broken up. There may be discomfort and bruising after GT. After treatment, patients would stretch and use ice.3 Graston Technique can treat tendonopathies (i.e., tennis elbow), fascial syndromes (i.e., plantar fasciitis), myofascial pain (i.e., headaches), sprains, and strains. Patients will also learn special exercises to coincide with their GT treatment.4
Choosing GT or ART
From a practitioner standpoint, Active Release Technique can lead to sore hands and thumbs. The Graston Technique, using instruments with a special lubricant, aims to avoid this issue; however, practitioners may tend to grip harder on slippery instruments. Both techniques require special training. Either ART or GT can be performed in chiropractic offices. Some chiropractors employ both methods, as they can complement each other. Neither technique provides the complete solution, as both methods will still require the patient to comply with “strengthening and flexibility training” and to avoid the “injury inducing task”. Many chiropractors now regularly perform both joint manipulation and soft tissue manipulation (STM) in their practices. Practitioners can choose the additional training they need and whether or not they want to purchase instruments. By adding STM to the practice, chiropractors can expand their services and treat a wider variety of patients. Some may wish to learn ART first, since no additional instrumentation is required.5