ART for every body

Tyler Milewski RMT Body Poets downtown Ottawa massage therapyBy: Tyler Milewski, RMT

Tyler is a registered massage therapist trained and certified in full-body Active Release Techniques, who has experienced first-hand the powerful ways that ART improves movement, function, and quality of life. Tyler also draws on his experience teaching Karate to enhance his treatments and give people a better understanding of their abilities. Read more about Tyler

Active Release Technique is a form of manual therapy that has gained a lot of popularity in recent years, and for good reason. Active Release Technique (ART) is a comprehensive system that helps you move and function as well as you possibly can. Sounds…exciting! It is. But how does it work, and why does it work?

ART has been around for 30 years, but recently it has really started to gain traction among chiropractors, physiotherapists, massage therapists, and other health-care workers. ART is an extremely effective method for dealing with what we call ‘adhesions’ in medicine. So, what are adhesions and why are they bad? Why are they important?

Your body is made up of ​tons of different moving parts, and they all have to share a pretty small space. For this reason, those moving parts tend to stick together. Not too hard to imagine, right? Once this happens in a particular area of your body, you have yourself an adhesion. It’s also now easy to see why this could be a big problem. Things that are stuck together are harder to move, and you end up using a lot more energy than you should just to move around!

Don’t we all find everything takes enough energy already? When muscles, ligaments, and other structures get hung up on each other, not only does it mean you put more effort into your activities, but your body starts doing things you haven’t asked it to do. If your quadriceps are stuck, for instance, your knee may move in unwanted directions during your activities. This increases your risk of injury, and the quality of the information reaching your brain from those muscles will decline steadily. Your muscles and joints will also begin to adapt and move in all sorts of weird and stressful ways if these things go unchecked for long enough. This can negatively impact your sports performance, as well as put a dent in your general health. Sounds a bit scary so far…but wait. Good news is coming. Adhesions occur all the time and for different reasons, but movement is the key (as cliché as that sounds). This is where ART really shines.

So, if things are stuck together, what should we do? Get in there and move them around, of course. And that, right there, is the whole concept of ART. But how does a therapist actually ​do this? The short answer is: manually, somewhat similar to massage, actually.

An ART provider knows exactly how to get you moving normally again. This is accomplished by understanding where different structures are, and how they’re supposed to move. The therapist then works a little bit of manual magic by prying the structures apart; using skillful directional touch and deliberate, methodical motions. Often times the client can get involved by moving a part of their body while this is happening, adding a neat interactive element. ART works by either assisting or restricting parts of your body as they move in the direction they are supposed to. This has the effect of separating structures from one another.

Many highly effective massage techniques can be uncomfortable at times for the client. Trigger point release and myofascial release are two good examples of this. ART falls into this category as well, but it is not inherently painful every time, and often it can be pain-free as well. As with any technique, the therapist will keep in touch with your comfort levels and adjust accordingly.

ART is a simple solution for the very common problem of adhesions. All sorts of people can benefit from it, and for a wide variety of different reasons. In reality, the list of health issues that ART can treat is a bit too long to list in full…and it includes things that you would not expect. Some people are surprised when they hear that ART can help with things like swelling, circulatory problems, numbness or tingling, migraine headaches, shooting pains (such as with sciatica), and arthritis. People always remark with surprise when they realize how much it helps, since they don’t expect it to help so much!

You must see it to believe it, though. Believe it you will, if you care to witness it for yourself…

You can book appointments with Tyler for ART and for massage therapy at

The Calcium + Magnesium Equation

Balance - Ottawa massage blogLike a tight rope walker suspended in mid air, your body too has to find the perfect balance to function properly. The body has its own mechanisms to find the right balance, but understanding those mechanisms will help you help your body. A major equation that is commonly out of balance is that of calcium and magnesium. These days, we put a lot of emphasis on calcium intake, but little on magnesium intake. These two minerals are complementary opposites, and an imbalance can lead to dysfunction.

Calcium - ottawa massage blog

Calcium, as we know, helps create bone. 99% of the body’s calcium is in our bones. The other 1% is in our blood. This blood serum calcium helps the contraction and dilatation of vasculature, muscle function, nerve transmission, and the release of hormones. This 1% is of high importance and the body makes sure there is little fluctuation. An imbalance in this calcium level can lead to disturbed nerve, muscle, hormone, and vessel function.

Magnesium - ottawa massage blogMagnesium is also a large player in bone. 50-60% of magnesium makes up bone structure. The rest is found in soft tissues (muscles, organs, etc.) and 1% is found in the blood. Once again, this 1% must be carefully regulated. Magnesium has a large impact on the body, with 300 biomechanical reactions dependent on it, including healthy nerve, muscle, and heart function.

Are you out of balance?

Calcium deficiency rarely shows acute symptoms, but a lifetime of poor calcium intake may lead to:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Osteopenia
  • Numbness and tingling in fingers

Magnesium deficiency can show symptoms earlier and may lead to:

  • Anxiety and agitation
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia and sleep disorders
  • Muscle spasm and weakness
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low calcium levels

How to get more calcium and magnesium.

Diet: A diet rich in leafy greens and seeds is a diet with ample calcium and magnesium.greens, seeds, milk - ottawa massage blog

Foods rich in calcium: Tofu, collard greens, spinach, bok choy

Foods rich in magnesium: Spinach, swiss chard, beet greens, pumpkin seeds

Supplements: Supplementing a diet that has insufficient calcium and magnesium can be an effective way to achieve daily recommended intake levels. Be sure to research the supplement you are thinking of taking to ensure the type of calcium or magnesium is the type you require and that the dosage is correct.

Epsom salts:  Epsom salts are magnesium salts that allow magnesium to absorb through the skin when used in a bath or compress.Molasses for magnesium - ottawa massage blog

Need a little extra? Black strap molasses is a great source for both calcium and magnesium. Take 2 teaspoons daily.

For more on calcium and magnesium, visit these sources:

Photo credits: Tightrope walker, Wikipedia (free source). Calcium, Magnesium, Greens and seeds, and Spoonful of molasses, Emilie McKay.