How Instrument-Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM) Can Speed Up Your Recovery Process
Updated: Aug 16
If you're experiencing discomfort from an injury, scar tissue, or chronic pain, IASTM can help you find relief and speed up your recovery!
Instrument-Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM), is a form of manual therapy used by physical therapists, chiropractors, and massage therapists to help alleviate soft tissue injuries and symptoms caused by it.
What is IASTM?
IASTM is known by many names, such as Gua Sha, muscle scraping, and the Graston Technique; however, IASTM is a more modern approach employed by certified practitioners to aid the body in recovery.
IASTM targets soft tissue areas of the body through the use of metal tools, some smooth and some with edges and contours, that glide and scrape over the affected areas, helping to alleviate symptoms associated with damage to muscles, tissues, and tendons.
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What Are the Benefits of IASTM?
IASTM is extremely beneficial in alleviating pain, reducing inflammation, and increasing range of motion, due to its ability to target specific areas of the body with precision and control. Unlike traditional massage techniques, which rely on the therapist's hands and fingers to apply pressure, IASTM tools can reach deeper layers of tissue and provide a more intense, targeted pressure. This can be particularly effective in treating chronic pain and injuries that have not responded to other forms of treatment.
It is widely known that IASTM can alleviate pain, especially when it comes to post-workout soreness, as the scraping tool massages soft tissue. Studies also show that IASTM can reduce chronic pain, as neck-pain subjects reported a significant decrease in pain intensity after only 1 week. In another study, patients who suffered from chronic lumbar pain and athletic injuries both felt relief after multiple sessions of IASTM.
Range of Motion
Studies show that IASTM can increase range of motion from the heat it produces, therefore softening up the tissue and improving flexibility. The same study states that significant improvement in range of motion was seen in the hamstrings of adult men, women, and athletes after 1 use.
The IASTM technique can reduce inflammation by releasing inflammatory messengers and immune cell messengers that suppress those inflammatory ones. The suppression of inflammatory messenger cells reduces swelling and inflammation in the body. The pressure and friction applied by the tool can also increase blood flow to the affected area, bringing fresh oxygen and nutrients to the tissues and removing waste products and toxins. This increased blood flow can also help to reduce inflammation and swelling, promoting faster healing and recovery.
What Conditions Does IASTM Treat?
Due to IASMT being a soft tissue treatment, it can be used to treat a variety of conditions related to soft tissue dysfunction, including but not limited to:
Forms of tendinitis or tendinopathy, including tennis elbow and plantar fasciitis
While IASTM can be highly effective in treating a range of musculoskeletal conditions and injuries, it is not appropriate for everyone. It is important to consult with your massage therapist or healthcare provider before receiving an IASTM treatment, particularly if you have any underlying medical conditions.
Is IASTM Treatment Painful?
IASTM is not painful, however, requires a certain amount of force to be applied in order to reach the soft tissue. It may be slightly uncomfortable, especially around tense or tight areas, but you shouldn't feel any intense pain.
According to the Arizona Chiropractic & Holistic Health Center, possible side effects can include:
Discomfort or Pain: depending on the area of the body, you may feel slight discomfort or soreness afterward.
Redness: redness on the body is normal after an IASTM session.
Bruising: tissue adhesions can cause bruising around the treatment area.
Spontaneous Connective Tissue Release: old scar tissue can be released during treatment which can trigger physical, mental, or emotional reactions.
IASTM is intended to stimulate blood circulation, break down scar tissue, and improve pain, and in doing so mild pain or side effects can occur in order to promote cell recovery, however, it should never be more than mild discomfort.
Add On IASTM to Your Massage!
Interested in IASTM? Elevate your massage by adding on an IASTM treatment! Simply click the button below to request a massage appointment and choose the IASTM add-on option.
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Ariela Liberman is a Marketing Associate and a staff writer for Rehab United, with a Bachelor of Arts in Media Studies. Born and raised in San Diego, she is a Southern California native with a passion for writing, digital marketing, health, and wellness.
Medically Reviewed by: Arturo Valle, PT, DPT, FAFS, CSCS, STMT-1, BFR-1, CCI
Dr. Valle is a Physical Therapist, Clinic Director of Rehab United in Escondido, and Director of Rehab United’s Quality Assurance Program. As a graduate of USC’s Doctor of Physical Therapy Program, Dr. Valle has always emphasized the implementation of Evidence-Based Practice into all plans of care. Throughout his 12 years of experience, Dr. Valle has treated thousands of orthopedic-related and sports injuries and mentored countless Physical Therapists and Students of Physical Therapy.