Active Release Techniques (ART) for Neck Pain or Stiffness

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Are the muscles at the top of your neck tight, but you can’t stretch them yourself?

Are you turning your whole body instead of turning your neck when you drive? Are you a golfer, and a stiff neck is hurting your game?

You haven’t tried everything until you have been treated with ART!

A recent study compared ART to joint mobilizations on patients with chronic neck pain.  The authors concluded, “ART and joint mobilizations are both effective for the treatment of patients with chronic neck pain, but ART demonstrated a trend toward greater effectiveness for patients with neck pain involving soft tissue injury. Therefore, ART appears to be a better option for treating patients with chronic neck pain in the clinical setting”.  One theory why ART had the greater effect is, “due to the observation that soft tissue injury is the cause of pain in 87.5% of neck pain cases, and ART is performed directly on the injured soft tissue“.

Image result for posterior neck muscles grey's

Great video animation showing the suboccipital muscles in 3D.

What is Active Release Techniques (ART)?

Active Release Techniques (ART) is a hands-on soft tissue treatment of ligaments, muscles, tendons and nerves.  It is the market leading soft tissue therapy in the world, used extensively in the treatment of professional athletes.  In the case of a neck muscle, the technique involves a manual pressure being applied to a shortened muscle in the top of the neck.  The patient moves his or her head in a direction that lengthens the muscle.  During the movement the therapist maintains a tension on the muscle, as it slides out from under the therapist’s fingers.  The treatment hurts a bit (most patients describe it as a “good hurt”), and it feels like a stretch that you need but can’t do yourself.   When a muscle is tight the technique works by increasing the nervous system’s tolerance to stretch the muscle.  ART is used on-site by hundreds of corporations to treat repetitive strain injuries, and in thousands of clinics around the world. This is because it can provide a quick result in treating conditions such as:  tennis elbow, frozen shoulder, shoulder rotator cuff injuries and plantar fasciitis.  


How does ART work in treating stiff necks and cervicogenic headaches?

ART allows the therapist to isolate treatment to each individual small muscle of the neck, and treat it through its full range of motion.  The neck muscles are layered, and to isolate them during treatment requires careful attention. Here is a video demonstrating the technique to help restore a loss of neck rotation.  

Articles I have written or contributed to:

Telegraph  The ART of Active Release Techniques for Injuries

STACK  New Age of Golf Training is Creating Stronger and More Athletic Golfers

Athletics Weekly  Performance Therapy for Greg Rutherford

220 Triathlon  ART- How is it different from sports massage

Vigour Magazine  ART can release tight muscles to improve performance

Progenex  ART for CrossFitters

FIT Institute  Research based hamstring therapies

TPI  What Performance Therapy Looks Like For Top Golfers


Ben Coomber Radio

Propane Fitness

I have treated the public and professional athletes for 19 years, using soft tissue work, Chiropractic, and prescribing the latest research based rehabilitation. I teach workshops in the North East of England to health professionals.

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