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IASTM: Instrument - Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization

Finding Inspiration in Every Turn

In the landscape of physical therapy and sports rehabilitation, Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM) has emerged as a go-to technique for treating a broad spectrum of soft tissue injuries. This article aims to shed light on the essence of IASTM including its historical background, importance, and the underlying principles that make it an effective technique in handling soft tissue injuries. Additionally, we delve into the different tools which are brought to use in IASTM and the array of benefits that these techniques can confer on patients. Let's get into the heart of this fascinating therapeutic domain, understanding how these revolutionary techniques can lead to reduced pain and accelerated recovery.


I.  Understanding IASTM and Soft Tissue Injuries. Introduction to Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM)

IASTM is a revolutionary approach in physical therapy, offering a non-invasive method for relieving chronic pain and improving patient outcomes.

Definition and Brief History

IASTM, or Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization, is a type of manual therapy that uses specially designed stainless steel instruments or tools to help the therapist identify and treat areas exhibiting soft tissue restrictions, scar tissue or chronic inflammation. Chiefly used in athletic training now, it has its historical roots in ancient Chinese medicine, where a similar technique, known as 'gua sha', was used to relieve pain.

Importance of IASTM

The mechanosensitive neurons activated by IASTM stimulate a process in the body that can help break down scar tissue, reducing its negative impact on patellar tendinitis and other conditions.

IASTM also has the added benefit of aiding in the improvement of blood flow to the troubled areas, further quickening the healing process and reducing pain.

II.  Understanding Soft Tissue Injuries

Sports professionals, healthcare providers, and therapists alike consider understanding potential factors and variables influencing soft tissue injuries crucial. Why is that? Keep reading to demystify this concept.


Soft tissue injuries refer to the injuries affecting the muscles, ligaments, and tendons. They are typically the result of a sudden, unexpected or uncontrolled movement, fall, or impact, and can lead to short term or chronic pain.

Common types of Soft Tissue Injuries

These injuries are ubiquitous in the field of athletic training, with a range of different types - from sprains and strains to tendinitis. For instance, patellar tendinitis, a common soft tissue injury seen in sports involving high levels of running and jumping, can be effectively treated using IASTM therapy.

And this is where the clinical benefits of IASTM come into play. By utilizing the point discrimination of these stainless steel instruments, clinicians in health resources centres like Green Lake and West Seattle among others have enhanced their clinical education, gaining a wider perspective on practical application and patient outcomes.

IASTM is not just a remedial measure. IASTM can also help identify tight muscles and other future problems, making it a prophylactic measure too. This augments soft tissue's ability to absorb force, thus reducing the risk of injury and effectively relieving any existing pain.

Furthermore, according to a systematic review, these benefits are not limited to professional athletes but are also observed in the general population.

For a more detailed look into IASTM for soft tissue injuries and an opportunity for a free assessment, be sure to consult your nearest physiotherapy clinic. Remember, clinical benefits, patient outcomes and future problems can all be positively influenced with this modern approach to physical therapy.

III. IASTM Therapy: Treating Soft Tissue Injuries & Tools UsedIII. How IASTM Treats Soft Tissue Injuries

Basic Concept

The use of Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM) therapy is supported by emerging clinical education and research as an effective method to treat soft tissue injuries. The primary goal is to restore and improve blood flow, reduce pain and lead to healthier and more patient outcomes.

It works under the basic concept of finding areas of tight muscles and soft tissue restrictions that can lead to future problems. The methods assist in the diagnosis and treatment of these restrictions to relieve chronic pain, inflammation, and even patellar tendinitis.

The Mechanism of Action

IASTM essentially ‘scrapes’ and stimulates skin, fascia, muscles, and ligaments to provoke a healing response. It triggers mechanosensitive neurons in our body which control muscle tension and tone. As a result, scar tissue, adhesions, and fascial restrictions are broken down, enabling ease of movement and reduced pain.

A systematic review of relevant literature shows that applying mechanical pressure, as seen in IASTM, aids in triggering desired effects in soft tissue. These include remodeling of collagen, stimulation of repair and growth factors, and a decrease in pain perception often associated with soft tissue injuries.

IV. Tools Used in IASTM

Overview of IASTM Tools

The success of IASTM therapy largely depends on the quality and type of instruments. Typically made of stainless steel, these tools are designed with various shapes and sizes to treat different body parts and conditions. The curved edges and pointed ends are used for broad and fine point discrimination, respectively.

Practical application often dictates the tool choice; however, it’s the practitioner's comfort and clinical benefits to the patient that matter the most. Some tools also feature ergonomic designs for comfortable handling during long treatment sessions in Green Lake, West Seattle, or any other therapy centers.

Various Types and Their Uses

Tools like the Graston Technique tools are common in IASTM, often because of their edge shape and flexibility. They are excellent at identifying areas of fibrosis or chronic inflammation and work wonders in breaking down scar tissue.

Another prevalent tool is Gua Sha, originating from traditional Chinese medicine, but its application in modern physical therapy is widespread. It’s favored in athletic training, where regular use can improve flexibility and performance, while reducing the risk of injury.

Every tool has its purpose and technique. While the choice of the tool depends on the type of injury and patient's response to treatment, it is crucial to learn proper techniques to fully leverage the benefits of IASTM for optimal patient outcomes.

It’s important that you consult with skilled physical therapists or health resources to get a free assessment before diving into any instrument assisted therapy, including IASTM.

Understanding Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM)Understanding Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM)

V. The Benefits of IASTM

Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization, more commonly known as IASTM, is a physical therapy technique that uses specially designed stainless steel instruments to bring about desired changes in soft tissue injuries.

Over time, this unique method of manual therapy has been associated with numerous positive patient outcomes, from reducing chronic pain to improving mobility. Let's explore some of the key clinical benefits of IASTM.

Pain Reduction

One of the key benefits of IASTM therapy is its ability to relieve pain. By working on the soft tissue, IASTM can help break down scar tissue and adhesions that cause discomfort. Notably, it's been shown to be effective in conditions such as patellar tendinitis and other forms of chronic pain that are resistant to many conventional treatments.

Studies, such as a systematic review by Loghmani and Warden, have suggested that IASTM not only reduces pain but also influences mechanosensitive neurons, potentially modulating pain perception.

Increased Mobility and Function

IASTM is also immensely beneficial for patients looking to improve their mobility. The therapy works by addressing soft tissue restrictions and assisting in the mobilization of myofascial structures, leading to an increase in range of motion.

Clinical education and evidence reveal that the manual use of tools like the Graston Technique® or Gua Sha can help restore the normal function of muscles and joints, thus enhancing mobility and performance.

Accelerated Recovery

Another practical application of IASTM therapy is its facilitation of accelerated recovery. By improving blood flow to the affected areas and stimulating the healing process, IASTM can expedite the recovery from soft tissue injuries, reduce future problems, and possibly return the patient to their regular activity levels more quickly.

The process works by stimulating the production of cells responsible for tissue repair. When combined with other physical therapy techniques, it can further enhance patient outcomes and speed up the recovery process.

VI. Conclusion

Importance of Professional Guidance

While IASTM offers numerous benefits, the technique should be performed under professional guidance to ensure the desired effect. Clinics in Green Lake and West Seattle, among other places, offer free assessments and health resources for IASTM therapy.

Choosing instrument assisted therapy conducted by an experienced physical therapist or athletic trainer can help ensure that the treatment is safe and effective. It allows the practitioner to use their superior point discrimination skills to identify and work on specific areas that require attention.

Investing in Clinical Education and Training

Apart from physical therapy, investing in clinical education and training is crucial for practitioners to fully understand and effectively apply IASTM to alleviate chronic pain and facilitate healing.

In conclusion, IASTM is an effective therapeutic approach for managing soft tissue injuries, reducing pain, increasing mobility, and accelerating recovery when administered under proper clinical guidance. Its widespread acknowledgement in the medical field indicates its potential to revolutionize contemporary soft tissue mobilization techniques and promises to augment soft tissue treatment.

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