What is IASTM? Instrument-Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilisation is the new era of scientifically approved tools and techniques that aid the physicians and healthcare experts to treat your tissue immobility or any soft tissue dysfunctioning which was earlier treated by massages, generic medicines. The IASTM tools and technique have evolved from Chinese medicine known as gua sha. Gua shua was used along meridians(chi flows in the body), which was believed to remove the bad chi out from the body by applying pressure on the musculoskeletal system and at all your body movement points ( including joint, tissues). This technique is on the verge and is widely accepted because of it efficiency, results and easy non-invasive procedure.
IASTM tools are very effective and designed in a way that easily detects and treats tissue immobility. Its shape is very sharp and defined to reach every fascial area on the body and treat it well. This technique requires a trained individual who has a certification or is experienced in giving IASTM procedures. Self-massage with the tools can be done but has several restrictions and precautions that need to be taken, self-application is not advised by experts in this field as one can do more harm if not done properly. IASTM combined with medication and exercise has given tremendous results and more remarkable recovery than a placebo.
History of IASTM tools and technique
Graston technique® is a trademark of Graston company and was developed in the 1990s, it gained popularity among athletes. It was known to be effective among them. From there, it got caught into the eyes of massage therapists, physical therapists, chiro practitioners, and physicians in the treatment of tissue immobilization, pain, and stiffness.
IASTM tools are sharp and pointed. They are made different to treat different myofascial restrictions in the body, some of which resemble the conventional scrappers to treat muscle stiffness. Many companies have come up with other similar IASTM tools; all these tools are made from rubber, plastic, or metal.
Who can go for an IASTM procedure
1. Scar tissue beneath skin layer – Any scarring inside the skin could cause you pain or make your outer skin look undesirable; IASTM is a nonsurgical approach to treat it.
2. Obstructed muscle movement – Any form of muscle movement obstruction is treated by the IASTM technique. Many athletes and sportspeople achieve recovery from muscle obstruction through this technique.
3. Neurological obstruction – Any damage or a neurological condition can obstruct your body movement or even make your nerves weak. IASTM can help those out in recovering and even healing some form of micro neurological damage in your body.
4. Muscle stiffness – Muscle stiffness is a common issue worldwide. Due to a hectic lifestyle and busy schedules, many people develop muscle stiffness or through the form of a physical exercise muscle stiffness can take place by applying pressure to tissue IASTM works like a charm in this scenario.
5. Motor signaling issue– Some cognitive motor complex signaling processes can also be treated or at least partially healed through this intervention.
6. Pain after surgery or accident – Some people get obstructed in their movement after surgery or after an accident. This kind of pain in the whole body can be alleviated through IASTM, fast recovery has also been reported by many individuals who have undergone the process.
7. Strain due to labor job – Many people have a different kind of job which requires muscle work or a certain movement in their job, which leads to muscle damage and excessive strain on it. IASTM is super effective in lowering the strain in muscles and make you healthy again.
8. Back pain, lower back pain – Most of the individuals who go for an IASTM have back pains, and especially lower back pain. IASTM procedures are made to heal your back with their deep tissue shock to your muscles, helping in decreasing the back pain and speeding up your back pain relief.
9. Muscle pain – Muscle pain can be caused for no reason, and diseases like fibromyalgia can cause muscle pain and tenderness. IASTM comes into play with other medication and cognitive treatments for fibromyalgia and general muscle pain.
10. Tendonitis, joint and ligament pains, spasm – All sorts of tendonitis, joint pains, and spasms can be treated well with the IASTM procedure. The inflammation in the tendons is put to stop by the IASTM technique and is very effective in treating tendonitis.
11. Neck pain – Neck pain is a big problem arising due to the IT revolution. People spending hours and hours under the computer screen and as a result neck pain is very common in individuals to incorporate sectors with IASTM and some improvements in body posture during work you can fix this neck pain.
12. Rotator cuff – your rotator cuff is capable of doing so many things, all the movement around your shoulders and arms, but is also most prone to injury a rotator cuff tears take several months to heal or even surgeries to fix it but the good news is rotator cuff can be treated well via IASTM.
13. Body posture imbalance – Some people get body imbalances and their structure becomes odd and obstructs them to do many things. Herein this procedure is effective to regain body posture.
14. Hip, knee, shin pain – As you age, you might get hip, knee, or pain in the shin area IASTM is an option you could get to relieve that pain or the old age pain in those areas.
15. Swelling in joints – Swelling in joints is a sign of inflammation. It can be treated effectively by the IASTM procedures.
Benefits of IASTM tools
- Lowering your overall treatment time
- Aiding faster rehabilitation/recovery
- Reducing the need for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication
- Treating chronic conditions which were thought to be permanent in first place
Not suitable for
1. Pregnant women – Pregnant women should avoid using these tools, especially near the abdomen or back area.
2. Implants pacemakers, internal defibrillator – Anyone having an electronic implant like pacemakers, defibrillators must avoid these tools and consult their doctors before using these tools.
3. Blood clot issues – Anyone facing a blood clot must consult their doctors before using these tools, especially if you have a blood clot in your veins.
4. Carotid sinus – this is a problem related to low shear stress in your internal carotid artery. When applied near to it (neck area), it can cause issues like dropping your blood pressure.
5. Blood pressure issues – When you face hypertension or face low blood pressure, these tools might interrupt your blood pressure levels. Proper medication and doctor consultancy before using these tools is a must.
How it works
IASTM works to treat fascial restrictions, force rapid localization, and effectively treat areas that exhibit soft tissue fibrosis, chronic inflammation, or degeneration, By Breaking down the scar tissue and fascia restrictions that are associated with some form of shock to the soft tissue (strain or stiffness in muscle, pulled ligament, tendon, or fascia) and thereby Reducing restrictions by stretching connective tissue in order to rearrange the structure of the soft tissue onto which the IASTM tools are applied with pressure and technique.
An Appropriate Pressure application Breaking down of fascial restrictions and scar tissue resulting in A shock to fascia and accompanied with localized inflammation in the area which further resulting in healing of soft tissue via many compounds released and the intramuscular process initiated(Discussed later) due to the localized inflammation are thought to be the reason for higher efficiency of this Technique. Furthermore as in any Manual therapy procedures, adding exercises and additional Techniques e.g. joint mobilization designed to correct biomechanical deficiencies by targetting musculoskeletal strength and correcting muscle imbalances should be used in conjunction with IASTM for better synergy towards the treatment and enhanced efficacy thus Promoting a better healing environment for the injured soft tissue.
What does Science Say
1. Increases range of motion, strength and decrease pain – These studies show that IASTM therapy increased the range of motion of the ankle(dorsiflexion), and reduced stiffness, just after few sessions of IASTM and had long-lasting effects.
2. Therapist friendly – The therapist who practices other massaging techniques gets a lot of problems in their hands and joints; this technique decreases this risk by giving them more edge by applying force on a small surface and thereby producing more pressure due to less area of contact as compared to hands.
3. Its application shows deep tissue level benefits – fibroblast proliferation (soft tissue) improvement in the ECM matrix of IASTM onto the fascia, some even reported reduced Scarring beneath the skin from this treatment.
4. Immediate action – This study shows short-term improvement in range of motion in individuals given IASTM up to a period of 24 hours.
5. Increases vascularity and blood vessel size – IASTM research also shows an increase in the arteriole-sized blood vessel improved after its intervention in ligament compared to the untreated area which helps in increased blood flow and faster recovery.
6. Increase in healing compounds – Increased growth factors, O2 nutrient delivery, increased tissue-resident stem cell and Remodelling of collagen fiber, elastin, and other factors take place after an IASTM procedure which increases the healing process and regeneration of tissue.
7. Decreased recovery time – this study shows how an athlete with muscle strain was quickly relieved from his symptoms after the Graston technique.
8. Best among other myofascial release tools – A recent study shows that’s Ergon IASTM technique showed better results on hip joint flexibility against foam roller, static stretching.
The best IASTM tools in market
· Stainless steel IASTM tools – Known as the best tools for IASTM and is a must-have tool for physiotherapists. The tissue responds well when the steel runs on it. It comes in different sizes for its application to different parts of the body, depending on the area of the fascia.
· Plastic, rubber tools – These are New in the market. A vast number of designs are suited for Manual Therapy work and are used for initial treatment to situate the body to the other procedures.
· Buffalo Horn-These tools are used by Chinese Gua Sha practitioners but can be used for the IASTM technique. These have less efficiency and can be bought for cheap.
· Jade Tools – These are much heavier and more slippery than the above tools, are fragile, and can break easily if dropped.
Complications caused by IASTM tools
- Redness of your skin where the treatment took place
- Worsening of pain
- Failure to provide relief
As for now, many pieces of evidence and studies have shown and agreed to the benefits of IASTM tools on the soft muscle tissue and has outworked to some other tools or technique. Our take is you can definitely go for this technique and use these smart IASTM tools if you suffer from any of the above pains and cannot get full relief from other procedures and medications. The best results are achieved by combining other therapies and precautions for a full recovery. Recovery time is frequently asked, and the benefits can be seen from your first session. Still, at least 4-5 sessions are necessary to attain significant results and to get benefitted from it.