T Nation

ART vs. Rolfing vs. DTM?



I'm confused more than ever about the differences between:



Deep Tissue Massage

Can any of you guys give a brief synopsis that compares and contrast the three?




I hope that as the new week begins, there will be some post!

Does anyone receive any one of the three therapies?



Active Release Technique (ART) is a patented, state-of-the-art soft tissue system that treats problems with muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nerves. Headaches, back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, shin splints, shoulder pain, sciatica, plantar fasciitis, knee problems, and tennis elbow are just a few of the many conditions that can be resolved quickly and permanently with ART. These conditions all have one important thing in common: they are often a result of overused muscles.

About Rolfing - Developed over 50 years ago by Dr. Ida Rolf, Ph.D., Rolfing structural integration works on the web-like complex of connective tissue (fascia) to release, realign and balance the whole body.

It can resolve pain and discomfort from many different causes, including those related to the lingering effects of trauma, back pain, repetitive motion injury and aging.

Deep Tissue - releases the chronic patterns of tension in the body through slow strokes and deep finger pressure on the contracted areas, either following or going across the grain of muscles, tendons and fascia. It is called deep tissue, because it also focuses on the deeper layers of muscle tissue.

You would need to find a therapist specifically trained in ART and/or Rolfing to try those. Most certified/licensed massage therapists can do deep tissue work, however, each therapists' version of this is greatly dependent on their individual skills and style. What may be "deep" to one person, may be "fluff and buff" to another.

My $.02 (as a LCMT) is to find a therapist that you are comfortable with and enjoy their work. Don't be hesitant to communicate what areas you need worked, how much pressure you prefer and what your goals are. They should be willing to customize each and every session to what you need on that particular day. Good luck!


I don't have incredibly detailed knowledge of ART or Rolfing, but I've done a lot of ART and went through the same decision it sounds like you're making (which to choose)

Rolfing is a much, much older technique and is more holistic in nature. There are practicioners who incorporate spirituality into it, as some massage therapists do. I found the rolfing practicioners I talked with to be much less educated than ART guys. Although I haven't done it myself, from talking to other people, it seems like rolfers take a pretty "standard" approach with their clients. They will rolf (ie free fascial adhesions) all over your body, the theory being that since fascia is connected throughout all of your body, adhesions or binding of fascia in your neck could cause misalignment in your feet and so forth. The point I'm making is that they do not work well with specific injuries. Whether you go to them with tendinitis of the knee, a sharp pain in your back, or whatever, they will likely do the exact same thing to you. So it seems that rolfing would be much easier to teach and learn. It's a process, and not nearly as clinical as ART.

ART, on the other hand, is an entirely different animal, similar only in that it's basics involve a practicioner working hands on with a client. They will find and treat specific injuries, and if you pick a good one, they will use a myriad of techniques to treat you. I went to Dave Radascweski (sp?) in Atlanta, GA for treatment of knee tendinitis (had taken 1600mg ibuprofen per day for 5 years for pain!) and back pain. He not only treated me with hands on ART, but with acupuncture, chiropractic techniques, and some other stuff I don't even remember the name of. My ART provider knew seemingly everything related to physiology. He found impingements in my hips, lower back, and all through my knee that were causing misalignment of the knee joint. After 3 weeks of treatment (3 X per week), I was cured. I still go for treatment about every six months for "maintenance" of any problem that even remotely starts to twinge. I recommend it to anyone having pain in any area of the body. Dave treats people with every kind of problem you can think of, even TMJ (that jaw disorder where your jaw pops all the time).

Deep Tissue Massage? It means rubbing really hard where it feels tight. That's about it. I'd recommend it for relaxation and recovery, not for treatment of injuries.

Hope this helps.


I rolf everytime I eat 3 day old fish :slight_smile:


You know what?

You guys are the BEST!!!




1) Questions:

Would it be wrong to say that ART is more of a specific treatment modality for specific injuries and malalignments...

...And Deep Tissue Massage is more "general" in terms of adhesion relase, fascial "loosening" and relaxation?

2) IN GENERAL, how would you guys set up a program for using both? (I would think that ART would be for the period of time needed to treat the injury...and DTM almost anytime (weekly/bi-weekly, etc.?)

Thanks again, guys!




Question for you. Do you find your weight training has an effect on your ability to massage? (LCMT is a massage therapist right?)

My fiance is a registered massage therapist. I've trained her to get better at martial arts. The weight training portion of her training was for relative strength and strength speed. While we worked on that she reported being able to go way deeper with a lot less effort.

Just wondering if your transformation (which I think is fan fricken tastic) made a difference on your practice?


P.s. sorry Muffasa for the highjack, but it seems that the thread was finished.


Oops, double sorry Mufasa, didn't see the other questions.


No problem, MM!

I am learning a LOT from this thread! Let's keep it going!



Mufasa, although I haven't personally tried ART or Rolfing, that sounds right to me. I think an ART session would just focus on the bodypart/problem area. Deep tissue massage can focus on a problem or treat the whole body (or a combination). You may find a great MT not trained in ART that can treat and help resolve problems. So much depends on the individual therapist and their skills and experience. You may have to search around until you find one you really like.

Whenever people asked me how often to get a massage, I would always say "as often as you can - whatever that is for you". I had a few weekly clients, some bi-weekly and many monthly. It is a wonderful thing to do for yourself, so as often as fits into your life, schedule and budget is best.

Mastermind, I actually stopped working almost 2 years ago now (during my 2nd pregnancy) and am taking a few years off to be home with the kids - so I can't answer your question! I know that when I go back to work (eventually) that my new level of strength and fitness will mean I can work more hours and at a better level. I would rarely see more than 4 clients in a day because it is physically tiring work and I want to make sure every session is as good as possible. I am sure that my lifting will mean better massage skills.

Actually, I am thinking of eventually taking classes to become a personal trainer so I can combine that with my massage practice. They seem like they would fit well together and are both good part-time jobs. I may even be able to do both at the same place.

Thanks for your kinds words and best wishes to your fiance!


Thanks Jilly!

I think you'd rock doing both careers. My fiance is thinking the same thing. I've been a trainer and I must say that the people that did both had way bigger cheques where I worked than I.


I've had a lot of DTM (free at home when I can convince my girl I need it) and I've had quite a few ART sessions as well. First observation is that ART hurts like hell! and it is very effective at speeding the healing process of acute injuries. Because it hurts so much, in my thinking I better damn well need it. As such I think that I wouldn't get it done without an injury. The deep tissue has been instrumental in recovering from less acute injury and injury prevention. For example, if you squat a lot, I highly recommend sessions on the posterior chain, IT, and sartorius. these areas are notoriously tight in frequent squatters and DTM sure helps the structural balance issue.

I want to try Rolfing next, I have a minor fascia problem that stretching and DTM is helping, but maybe Rolfing will be better. I'll keep you updated.

Fight well,


I notice I can give better "completely platonic" massages to my chick friends after increasing my specific forearm and hand strength training - plate pinches particularly. They really get the thumb flexors and adductors, which were usually the first things to burn out on me.


I've bumped this up for a follow-up question.