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 http://bodypoets.com.

How to: Stretch Pirformis

Maybe you’ve spent more time sitting around over the past few weeks, or maybe you’ve been out on the slopes or the rink. Either way, you may find yourself feeling stiff or tight around the low back, hips, or buttocks. And if you’ve been driving more than usual, some sciatic-type symptoms might be showing up. One of these piriformis stretches may be just what you need to ease some of that discomfort. Your RMT can also suggest rolling and other exercises or treatment that can get down into whatever muscle tension is cramping your style.

Body Poets Massage Therapy

Piriformis - Ottawa Massage BlogOne of the more commonly tight muscles, the piriformis, can be a real pain in your …. well, you know. But stretching it out regularly will help reduce pain and discomfort in your … well, you know. The following stretches aren’t just for the piriformis though. They also help with the gluteus minimus and other external rotators of the hip (there are five others!).

Some indications that you may need to stretch your external hip rotators are:

  • sciatic pain
  • SI joint pain
  • stiffness in the hips
  • postural imbalances such as being ‘duck-footed’ (toes pointing out) or weight bearing on one leg (hip jutting out)

Without further ado, here are some stretches and modifications for the external hip rotators. Find one that best suits your flexibility level.

Pigeon Pose: Kneeling on all 4s, bring the right knee forward to the right wrist. Let the right knee sink out toward the ground…

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How to: Stretch Pirformis

Piriformis - Ottawa Massage BlogOne of the more commonly tight muscles, the piriformis, can be a real pain in your …. well, you know. But stretching it out regularly will help reduce pain and discomfort in your … well, you know. The following stretches aren’t just for the piriformis though. They also help with the gluteus minimus and other external rotators of the hip (there are five others!).

Some indications that you may need to stretch your external hip rotators are:

  • sciatic pain
  • SI joint pain
  • stiffness in the hips
  • postural imbalances such as being ‘duck-footed’ (toes pointing out) or weight bearing on one leg (hip jutting out)

Without further ado, here are some stretches and modifications for the external hip rotators. Find one that best suits your flexibility level.

Pigeon Pose: Kneeling on all 4s, bring the right knee forward to the right wrist. Let the right knee sink out toward the ground so the shin is more or less perpendicular between your two hands. Then extend the left leg straight back, with your toes resting in a straight line behind you. If you are able to, fold the torso over the front leg. If you find this pose very challenging, put a book, block, or cushion under your bent right hip to help support you at a comfortable distance from the ground. Repeat on the other side.

Pigeon Pose - Ottawa Massage Blog

Figure-4: Lying on your back, with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent toward the ceiling, place the right foot on the left knee. Reach through the triangle made by your two thighs to grasp the back of the left thigh. Slowly draw the left thigh towards your chest, bringing the right shin and knee in close. Straighten the left knee to lessen the stretch. Repeat on the other side. If you have trouble grasping the back of the thigh, wrap a belt behind the thigh and hold the two ends in your hands.Figure 4 - Ottawa Massage Blog

Figure-4 on a chair: Similar to the Figure-4, only you’re sitting. While seated, place the right foot on the left knee. This may be far enough for you to feel a stretch in the right hip. If not, slowly bring your chest forward over your legs. Repeat on the other side.Figure 4 Seated - Ottawa Massage Blog

You will feel these stretches in your hip or buttock of the side being stretched. You may also feel them in the outside of the thigh, and in the low back. As long as you don’t have pain, enjoy whatever stretch you’re experiencing.

Remember to go only far enough so that you feel a delicious, comfortable sensation of lengthening. Pain means you’ve gone too far, and your muscles will contract and shorten, not stretch.

Hold each stretch for 30-60 seconds on each side, or longer if you like.