Instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization or IASTM
Instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) is a modality used by chiropractors, and other practitioners, in soft tissue therapy. “IASTM is applied using specially designed instruments to provide a mobilizing effect to soft tissue (e.g., scar tissue, myofascial adhesion) to decrease pain and improve range of motion (ROM) and function.” (Cheatham, Lee, Cain and Baker, 2016)
What is IASTM?
Using an instrument to help mobilization has been found to achieve a deeper penetration and more direct treatment of the soft tissue. IASTM treatment may stimulate the remodelling of connective tissue, and promote repair and regeneration of collagen. This may result in the dismantling of scar tissue, adhesions, and fascial restrictions. When an injury occurs the body rapidly produces new cells in the affected area. As a repair response the body begins the development of fibrous connective tissue (fibrosis), and scar tissue. This response results in diminished tissue elasticity, soft tissue function and pain. IASTM promotes blood flow to the affected area and increases the elasticity of the soft tissue.
IASTM is not a new phenomena. Records of this practice date back to ancient Greece and Rome when handheld metallic devices (strigils), were used for therapeutic purposes. Another early form, and often viewed as an originating practice of IASTM, is a traditional Chinese therapy known as gua sha. “The word “gua sha” refers to the red spot that appears on the skin when an instrument is used to push or scrape the skin, increasing the blood flow to facilitate the supply of blood and oxygen to the soft tissues.” (Kim, Sung, Lee, 2017)
There are a number of different tools, companies that have their own approach for specialized treatment with IASTM. Some include Graston®, Técnica Gavilán®, Hawk Grips®, Functional and Kinetic Treatment and Rehab (FAKTR)®, Adhesion Breakers® and Fascial Abrasion Technique™. All IASTM approaches have the same goal of improving soft tissue mobility.
What is a treatment like?
During an IASTM treatment Dr. Stacey uses stainless steel strigils against the skin of the injured area. She presses the strigil against the skin and massages it over the area in a back and forth motion. The sensation felt may be different for each person and injury. You may feel pressure similar to that of a deep tissue massage because the instrument is meant to achieve a deep penetration into the tissue to promote recovery and repair. Additionally, you may feel the area heating up and getting red. IASTM is not commonly found to result in pain and bruising after treatment but there may be some tenderness immediately after. Check out the short video below to briefly see it in action.
Dr. Stacey uses this modality in combination with other chiropractic techniques like ART or adjustments depending on Dr. Stacey’s assessment. If you are curious to know more, ask her about it during your next appointment. Book online now