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IASTM: How does it work?

What is Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization?

Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM) is the use of instruments (or tools) to perform soft tissue massage. Soft tissue includes muscle, tendon, ligament, and fascia. The physio uses the instruments to both detect and treat soft tissue restrictions and disorders.


How does it work?

By performing IASTM, the physio creates controlled micro trauma to the soft tissue. This stimulates a local inflammatory response, which leads to tissue remodelling. This includes:

  • Increased fibroblast activity, which creates and remodels collagen. Collagen is the main structural protein found in all connective tissues

  • Increased blood flow

  • Increased stem cell production

Because the tool creates a different amount of pressure than a therapist’s hands, IASTM can potentially be less painful than normal soft tissue massage for the patient.

What is it used for?

IASTM can be used for a variety of conditions. The most common are:

  • Tendinopathies:

    • ex. Achilles tendinopathy, rotator cuff tendinopathy

  • Scar tissue build up

    • ex. after surgery or a traumatic injury

  • Fascial syndromes

    • ex. Myofascial pain syndrome, IT band syndrome

  • Muscle strains

    • ex. Quadriceps strain, calf strain

  • Ligament injuries

    • ex. Ankle sprain, MCL sprain

What types of tools are used?

There are many different types of IASTM tools. Tools are made of a variety of materials, such as steel, plastic, or jade. Tools also come in a variety of shapes. Many tools are designed to have a variety of treatment edges within the same tool. These different shapes and edges allow the physio to address issues in muscles, tendons and ligaments of different sizes and locations.


What is the treatment like?

A treatment will usually start with the physio assessing the area to be worked on with their hands. The tool will then be used. The area may be worked on in different directions, with varying pressures and different treatment edges- generally working from less pressure to more pressure.

After the treatment, there can sometimes be some redness and/or bruising. This is a normal response to the treatment.

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