Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization ( IASTM )

 

IASTM involves using a range of tools to efficiently locate and treat soft-tissue dysfunction.

 

What is a soft tissue injury?

A soft-tissue injury involves damage to the muscles, ligaments, tendons and/or fascia somewhere in the body. Common soft-tissue injuries usually occur from a sprain, strain, blow to the body resulting in a contusion (ruptured blood vessels/bruising), or overuse of a particular body part. Soft tissue injuries can result in pain, swelling, bruising and loss of function. Adhesions within the soft tissue may develop as a result of repeated strain, surgery, immobilization or other mechanisms.

How does IASTM work?

Often, patients with soft-tissue injuries do not seek out physical therapy until the injuries have become chronic (weeks/months after injury). By this point, the body has completed most of its self-healing process. Scar tissue and adhesions are formed during this healing process, which limits motion and often causes pain. Scar tissue and adhesions essentially act like super glue in your body. When scar tissue is created after injury, new cells are laid down excessively and in a disorganized manner. Scar tissue/adhesions prevent the muscle or other tissues from lengthening appropriately. It is often necessary for the physical therapist to restart the healing process in order to remodel the soft tissues in the affected area. By introducing controlled microtrauma to affected soft tissue using IASTM, a local inflammatory response is stimulated. This microtrauma initiates reabsorption of inappropriate or excessive scar tissue and facilitates a remodeling of the affected soft-tissue structures. After IASTM treatment, scar tissue can be remodeled so that the cells become organized in a direction that better promotes movement.

What’s involved in a IASTM treatment?

  • The tissue is warmed with moist heat to make it more pliable

  • IASTM is performed for 2-3 minutes in the affected area

  • Engage in light exercise or stretching to promote proper movement patterns

 

IASTM is often accompanied by home exercise; stretching muscles to build flexibility and strengthening in the area of the injury. It is common for clients who perform home stretches and exercises to experience accelerated healing.

Are there any side effects to IASTM?

It is important to note that IASTM’s ability to reinitiate first-stage healing comes from the fact that it is essentially reinjuring the body (although to a lesser degree and in a controlled fashion). This may cause mild discomfort during the procedure. Patients may experience soreness in the treatment area for a day or two following treatment. Bruising can occur, although this is neither common nor desirable. Results vary by individual.