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Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Massage (IASTM): A Tool for Relieving

Pain and Improving Range Of Motion

by Christian Reyes, PT, DPT, CSCS

IASTM is becoming a popular strategy for reducing levels of

neuromusculoskeletal pain. Evidence has been emerging that supports the

ability of IASTM to improve the healing rate of tendons, muscles, and ligaments 1 ,

circulation of blood and stem cells to superficial tissues 2,3 , and neurophysiological

effects such as acutely reduced pain levels during functional activities 4,5 .

 

At POST PT, our physical therapists use IASTM in conjunction with

progressive resistive exercise, balance training, stretching, activity modifications,

and other manual therapy strategies to treat muscle, tendon and ligament injuries

on a daily basis.

 

Common muscle, tendon and fascial strains include:

Rotator Cuff

Long Head of Biceps Brachii

Tennis Elbow

DeQuervain’s Syndrome

Gluteals

Hamstrings

Quadriceps/Patella

Shin Splints

Plantar Fascia

 

Common ligament sprains include:

ATFL/CFL of the ankle

MCL of the knee

UCL of the elbow

Acromioclavicular ligaments of the shoulder

 

If indicated, IASTM is generally performed for about 2 minutes in each

selected area up to three times per week 6,7 . Your physical therapist will use

specific tests and measures to assess if and how IASTM should be applied

during your treatment.

 

IASTM should not be used if you have any of the following conditions:

Open wounds

Unhealed fractures

Blood clots

Uncontrolled hypertension

Hematoma

Osteomyelitis

Myositis Ossicans

Please let your physical therapist if you are experiencing any of these

conditions before beginning treatment with IASTM.

 

We look forward to working with you at POST PT!

 

References:

  1. Gehlsen, G. M., Ganion, L. R., & Helfst, R. (1999). Fibroblast responses to variation

in soft tissue mobilization pressure. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 31(4),

531–535. https://doi.org/10.1097/00005768-199904000-00006

  1. Loghmani, M. T., & Warden, S. J. (2013). Instrument-assisted cross fiber massage

increases tissue perfusion and alters microvascular morphology in the vicinity of healing

knee ligaments. BMC complementary and alternative medicine, 13, 240.

https://doi.org/10.1186/1472-6882-13-240

  1. Thompson, W. R., Scott, A., Loghmani, M. T., Ward, S. R., & Warden, S. J. (2016).

Understanding mechanobiology: physical therapists as a force in mechanotherapy and

musculoskeletal regenerative rehabilitation. Physical therapy, 96(4), 560-569.

  1. Ge, W., Roth, E., & Sansone, A. (2017). A quasi-experimental study on the effects of

instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization on mechanosensitive neurons. Journal of

physical therapy science, 29(4), 654-657.

  1. Gulick, D. T. (2018). Instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization increases myofascial

trigger point pain threshold. Journal of bodywork and movement therapies, 22(2), 341-

345

  1. Carey-Loghmani, M. T., Schrader, J. W., & Hammer, W. I. (2010). Graston technique:

M1 instruction manual. 3rd ed2010, 6-127.

  1. Kim, J., Sung, D. J., & Lee, J. (2017). Therapeutic effectiveness of instrument-

assisted soft tissue mobilization for soft tissue injury: mechanisms and practical

application. Journal of exercise rehabilitation, 13(1), 12.

Photo: https://walkerphysicaltherapyinc.com/physical-therapy-treatments/instrument-assisted-soft-tissue-mobilization/