Instrument Assisted Mobilization Soft Tissue Therapy

Instrument Assisted Mobilization Soft Tissue Therapy (IASTM) is an effective yet gentle manual therapy technique that helps in the treatment of soft tissue injuries without causing tissue damage or bruising. As the name suggests, this technique uses an instrument to add shearing stress to soft tissue to improve the body’s healing response.

What is IASTM?

IASTM is a form of manual therapy that uses a hard-edged instrument to add shearing stress to soft tissue to prompt an improved healing response. This technique focuses mechanical force along a small contact surface of the target tissue with no pain or discomfort. A unique feature of this technique is the instrument can transfer force to the target tissue and offer feedback to the therapist about any tissue irregularities by resonating when the instrument passes over scar tissue or adhesions.

In many cases, patients who have soft tissue injuries do not seek treatment like physical therapy until the injuries are chronic, which may be weeks or months after the injury. At this point, the body has already finished its healing process and adhesions or scar tissue has formed, limiting motion and resulting in pain. Scar tissue works like glue in the body, laying down new cells in a disorganized manner to hold together tissue but also preventing muscle and other tissue from lengthening properly.

The key to recovering from a soft tissue injury after adhesions have formed is restarting the healing process to remodel the damaged tissue. IASTM introduces controlled microtrauma to the affected tissue to create a local inflammatory response, restarting the healing process. This microtrauma helps with reabsorption of excessive scar tissue so cells can become organized in the correct direction for proper tissue movement.

History of the IASTM Technique

A form of IASTM called gua sha has origins in ancient Chinese folk medicine. These treatments typically consisted of using a tool like a shaped piece of jade or even a soup spoon to create friction on the skin. The goal of the treatment was creating a warming reaction to bring the “sha” or “disease” to the surface to leave the body.

The technique came to the West in the 1970s when Vietnamese refugees brought the practice of coin rubbing to the United States. School

officials often suspected child abuse in these cases because children came to school with bruising from at-home treatments.

The most commonly known modern IASTM techniques developed independently of gua sha and they are traced to Dave Graston, an assembly line worker who developed chronic knee issues after a poor surgical outcome from an accident. He found that rubbing the edge of a No. 2 pencil along his stiff knee through friction massage made his workouts more comfortable and improved the function and motion of his knee. Machine-shaped metal tools improved the results and thus modern IASTM was born.

What to Expect from IASTM treatments

The typical IASTM treatment begins with warming up the tissue to make it more pliable. This may be done through heat or aerobic exercise. After the IASTM treatment, light exercise is used to promote proper movement patterns in the soft tissue to encourage cell growth in the right direction.

Because IASTM initiates the first-stage healing process through small, controlled injuries, the procedure can result in mild discomfort. Soreness in the treatment area is common after a session for one to two days and bruising may occur.
Most patients receive IASTM treatments twice a week for about one month with a positive response after the third or fourth treatment.

What Can Instrument Assisted Mobilization Soft Tissue Therapy Treat?

IASTM can be used in the treatment of a variety of soft tissue injuries to the tendons, ligaments, muscles, or fascia, including strains, sprains, contusions, and overuse injuries. This technique is often used in the treatment of:

  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Achilles tendinosis
  • Tendinopathies
  • IT band syndrome
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Neck pain
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Ligament sprains
  • Muscle strains
  • Trigger finger
  • Hip pain after replacement surgery
  • Chronic joint swelling/li>
  • Post-surgical or traumatic scars
  • Chronic ankle sprains
  • Sports-related
  • Work-related repetitive stress injuries

IASTM can help alleviate symptoms such as pain during motion, reduced range of motion, motor control problems, and muscle recruitment problems.

Schedule an Appointment
IASTM has clinically proven benefits in the treatment of soft tissue injuries, especially in patients whose injuries have healed and now have pain and limit motion. If you are struggling with reduced range of motion, scarring, and pain, IASTM therapy may be the solution to help your body heal correctly and relieve your symptoms.
Contact Chiropractic Fit today to schedule an appointment and learn more about the benefits of IASTM.