Active Release Techniques for Plantar Fasciitis (ART)

active release techniques for plantar fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis (PF) is the most common cause of heel pain. You can't walk properly, and discomfort bothers you all day long, you can't run or participate in other activities as much as you used to, you know how it goes. Quality and enjoyment of life suffers unless you find a way to manage pain and improve your range of motion. Active release techniques (ART) prove to be a practical and effective way to feel better. How do they work? Scroll down to learn more about active release for plantar fasciitis and how to do it.

What Exactly is ART?​

ART is defined as a form of soft tissue therapy whose primary objective is to relax and soothe tight muscles and nerve trigger points to reduce muscular pains and joint stress. This is not some novel approach toward pain relief, and ART has been around for more than 30 years. The therapy was patented by P. Michael Leahy, a certified chiropractic sports physician. He created ART to treat patients with different chronic aches and injuries and improve their range of motion and quality of life.

A common misconception is that ART is just a different name for massage. While they are similar, we’re talking about two different therapies. You see, massage works by improving blood circulation and lowering muscle tension induced by chronic, unresolved stress. In some cases, massage has the potential to alleviate pain by lowering trigger points in a person’s muscles. That being said, massage usually doesn’t focus on restoring proper tissue function or breaking up adhesions after injury, but ART does. The main point of difference is that ART is a myofascial release or a deep tissue massage. This technique tries to restore your tissue function after injury, and it is more tailored or customized to a patient's needs compared to standard massage therapy.

What About the Granston Technique, is this the Same?​

ART is also commonly mistaken for the Graston technique which also happens to be a form of soft tissue mobilization therapy. Although it works similarly to ART, Graston therapy is performed with a handled instrument whose function is to apply deep pressure to a patient in a rhythmic manner. On the other hand, ART doesn’t require the use of some specific tools other than hand pressure.

graston technique plantar fasciitis

Graston Technique

You're probably wondering about the cost of one such therapy, and the prices may vary. Costs of the treatment are based on your location, practitioner, the severity of the condition, and other factors. Typically, ART prices can be as low as $30 or as high as $50 per treatment. Nowadays you can find out who performs these techniques in your area, get informed about their prices, and contact the practitioners regarding your problem (in this case, plantar fasciitis).

Is ART Beneficial to Plantar Fasciitis and How Can it Really Help?​

The purpose of ART is to treat symptoms associated with injuries and disorders affecting fascia, tendons, muscles, ligaments, and nerves. The therapy is designed in a three-fold manner: to restore free and unimpeded motion of soft tissues, to re-establish optimal texture, resilience, and function of soft tissues, and lastly to release entrapped nerves, lymphatics, and vasculature.

This particular technique involves different stages such as identifying, isolating and targeting the affected area in order to break up scar tissue. As a result, the therapy improves blood flow and promotes faster healing of injuries for a more effective recovery.

Who Performs Active Release Techniques?​

physical therapists

Different types of healthcare providers can perform ART such as physicians, massage therapists, chiropractors, and physical therapists. These professionals can help address injury or damage to your plantar fascia and thereby alleviate inflammation, pain, and help you avoid feeling discomfort when walking, running, or standing.

Besides plantar fasciitis, ART can also aid management of lower back pain, tension headaches, chronic neck pain, shin splints, carpal tunnel syndrome, shoulder strains, sciatic nerve pain, tennis elbow, bursitis, among other problems.

ART and Plantar Fasciitis​

You’re probably wondering how can active release therapy help treat plantar fasciitis and whether you can really feel better after it. Well, the therapy works by breaking up adhesions which are defined as dense collections of scar tissues. These adhesions form when connective tissues and muscles sustain an injury. When these adhesions bind between your muscles and other tissues, they limit the flexibility and cause stiffness and pain. So, ART breaks up the adhesions to allow the injured area to become more flexible again. Interestingly, heel pain which is common in people with PF is a major sign of the scar tissue accumulation.

Before the therapy session starts, the chiropractor (or some other healthcare provider) will inspect and feel the affected area first, in the case of PF, he or she will examine the affected foot. Examining the area allows the healthcare professional to identify the exact location of scar tissue. Then, they perform ART to break up the frustrating adhesions and improve blood flow in the affected site. After the adhesions are broken up, muscles, joints, or other connective tissues glide smoothly.

A Great Natural Therapy​

Not only is it effective, but ART is also an all-natural therapy for plantar fasciitis. It fits perfectly into a holistic or natural lifestyle. The therapy helps people feel better, restore function in their feet, and improve quality of life without ineffective and complicated approaches you probably came across online.

ART is also highly beneficial for professional and recreational athletes with plantar fasciitis. As an active individual, you want to resume your favorite activity as soon as possible. Unfortunately, PF isn’t a type of condition that will go away in an instant. With ART, you can eliminate the accumulation of scar tissues and relieve pain, inflammation, and discomfort faster for more consistent performance.

Can I do it Myself?​

Although the best thing to do is to schedule an appointment and see a chiropractor or some other healthcare professional, there are do-it-yourself methods to try. Here are a few examples:

1. Reset​

Bend the knee of the affected leg and place hands right under toes and metatarsal heads. Exhale and start flexing top arch and toes toward you. Use your hands to assist the movement and return to the starting position as you inhale. Do 2 sets of 8-10 reps.

2. Stabilize​

Assume the same starting position as in the above-mentioned technique and place hands in the same manner. Then, extend top arch and your toes toward the floor. While moving your arch and toes toward the ground make sure to exhale. Similarly to the exercise above, inhale as you’re returning arch and toes to the starting position. Do 2 sets of 8-10 reps.

3. Release​

Before performing this technique make sure you’re in a seated position. Then, place the affected leg over the opposite thigh or you can also bend the knee. Apply pressure gently between the inside area of anklebone and the heel using your fingers or thumb. Don’t put too much pressure on this area because plantar fascia may already be inflamed. If you press too hard with your fingers or thumb you might feel pain, which is something you don’t want to achieve. For more relief, you can use a muscle salve while massaging the area. Go slowly, this is not the race.

In order to avoid complications and aggravating pain, it’s practical to get ART done by a professional. During therapy sessions, you can ask the healthcare provider about the best and safest methods to try and do it on your own. Consulting your doctor is always the best thing to do before attempting to do something on your own.

Things to Consider with ART for Plantar Fasciitis​

active release therapy

As seen throughout this post, you can actively release plantar fasciitis to recover faster and get rid of pain, inflammation, and other uncomfortable symptoms. However, there are some things to take into consideration before you go ahead and do it. For example, if you have low pain tolerance, you may find the therapy painful and uncomfortable. This doesn't mean ART is a super painful technique, but if your pain threshold is low, then you may feel discomfort.

Also, you need to be patient. Most people with plantar fasciitis expect the therapy to work instantly. True, sometimes a single therapy session is enough, but in other cases, a patient may need an additional appointment or two. Go to the therapy session with an open mind and realistic expectations. Some patients may need a few weeks to experience improvements. Sessions are usually performed two to three times a week, which is not that bad anyway.

Lastly, make sure the healthcare professional is certified in performing this type of therapy. That is the best way to ensure the efficacy of the treatment and a speedy recovery.

In Summary​

If you have plantar fasciitis, you’ve probably tried different things to feel better. In case you haven’t tried active release techniques, you should consider scheduling an appointment and see how it can help you. ART is a safe, effective, and a fast way to feel better. Make sure you ask your doctor everything you want to know about the therapy.