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What is Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM)?

Dec 8, 2022

By Garrett Lachvayder, PTA at Foothills South Chandler

IASTM is the newest soft tissue mobilization technique that has hit the industry. It is a type of treatment that allows your Physical Therapist to break down scar tissue and fascial restrictions effectively and restore normal soft tissue texture, flexibility, and function quickly.

It utilizes several specialized tools to treat soft tissue injuries. For example, it can be used on any body, including muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia, and joints.

While many people use the IASTM technique as a treatment method for acute injuries (such as strains), some choose this type of therapy as a preventative measure – especially if they are highly active and know they’re at risk for overuse injuries. IASTM can help loosen up tight muscles and tendons—which allows your body to heal more quickly—reducing your risk of chronic pain or re-injury in that area.

PT using IASTM treatment on patients foot.

How IASTM Works

IASTM uses a variety of instruments on the body, including flat and curved bars, rubber balls, and brushes, to apply pressure directly to tight muscles or tendons. The application of that pressure breaks down scar tissue, relieves inflammation, and stimulates healing underneath the surface of your skin.

The goal is to increase blood flow in those areas, so they heal more quickly and efficiently; this also improves flexibility as it loosens up stiff joints and moves quickly (which helps reduce pain). Increasing oxygenation in your injured joint or tendon tissue, IASTM helps relieve swelling, so you don’t suffer from chronic stiffness after every workout session (or a long day at work). The best part about IASTM is that it’s non-invasive, meaning you don’t have to worry about surgery or taking time off work to heal. It’s also much less painful than other forms of physical therapy (like deep tissue massage), so it’s easier for most people to handle.

Combining these two treatments is powerful, as it can help you recover from injury faster. With IASTM and physical therapy in your arsenal, you’ll be back to full strength (and pain-free) in no time!

PT using IASTM treatment on patients arm.

What Are the Different Tools Used in IASTM Therapy?

IASTM tools are designed for the treatment of soft tissue injuries. They’re made from high-quality materials like stainless steel, Teflon-coated tips, and silicone. So they don’t irritate your skin as you work out knots in tight muscles that repetitive or strenuous movement patterns may have created (e.g., crossing arms over chest all day).

IASTM tools for physical therapy.

The variety of Instruments available makes it possible for therapists to customize their treatments based on the needs of their clients. Physical therapists can use IASTM tools to treat acute and chronic soft tissue injuries and provide preventative measures against future problems. The instruments can also work in other types of treatment, such as trigger point therapy and myofascial release. They can be used on many body parts, including muscles, tendons, ligaments, and fascia. The tools are designed to apply a specific amount of pressure to tissue so that a therapist can work through it without causing damage or pain to the client.

The tips of these instruments can be either blunt or sharp, depending on the treatment given. As a general rule, the sharper the tool, the more intense and specific the soft tissue treatment.

What Conditions Does IASTM Treat?

IASTM can treat a wide range of conditions, including:

  • Muscle and tendon injuries
  • Arthritis
  • Frozen shoulder
  • Sports injuries
  • Tennis elbow
  • Plantar fasciitis (heel pain)
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Sciatica (pain due to irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve)
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome (numbness and tingling in fingers and hand)
  • Tension headaches

Benefits of IASTM Therapy

The goal of IASTM therapy is to promote healing and reduce pain. It does this by increasing circulation, breaking up scar tissue and fascia (connective tissue), loosening tight muscles, reducing inflammation, and stimulating nerves. This helps the body recover faster from injuries and improves overall health by preventing future problems. The benefits of IASTM therapy include:

  • Reduced pain and inflammation
  • Increased blood flow and lymph flow
  • Improve the following range of motion (ROM)
  • Less muscle soreness after activity
  • Better sleep
  • Better overall health

How IASTM Helps Muscles and Tendons Heal More Quickly

When you have a muscle or tendon injury, your body will try to repair it by creating scar tissue and new collagen. This takes time and can cause pain and stiffness. IASTM helps speed up this process by breaking down scar tissue and fascia (connective tissue) to allow blood and lymph to flow through your tissues more easily. This helps speed up recovery while also preventing future problems.

How IASTM Increases Range of Motion

Muscles and joints are often restricted because of scar tissue or adhesions that have formed between your muscles and fascia. This is even more likely to happen if you’ve had an injury. IASTM helps break down these adhesions so your body can move more freely.

How IASTM Reduces Chronic Pain

The body naturally wants to be in a state of homeostasis or balance. When you injure yourself, your body goes into protection mode and creates adhesions between muscles and fascia to stabilize the area and prevent further injury. The problem is that these adhesions can cause pain when they limit the range of motion or make movement difficult. IASTM helps reduce this chronic pain by breaking down scar tissue so that blood and lymph can flow freely through your tissues.

Conclusion

Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM) is a safe, effective treatment for many conditions. IASTM uses a curved or flat surface instrument to apply pressure to tight muscles and tendons. This therapy stimulates healing by increasing blood flow and breaking up scar tissue.

IASTM can help you in the following ways: reduce pain, increase range of motion and improve muscle function. If you have any reason to believe that you may be suffering from injuries such as chronic low back pain or neck issues, please request an appointment with Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy today to see if IASTM is the proper treatment for you.

Garrett Lachvayder

by Garrett Lachvayder
PTA | South Chandler

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