Heal Faster With Instrument-Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization Therapy
By: Tim Alemi – Fox Physical Therapy
Patients experiencing soft-tissue dysfunction such as the formation of scar tissue, trigger points, or sprains/strains are often treated with manual therapy techniques such as Instrument-Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM), manual soft-tissue mobilization, or many other types of massage techniques. These techniques are used to help stimulate the healing response, promote correct realignment of collagen fibers, and decrease pain. Instrument-Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization is a manual therapy technique that utilizes specifically designed concave/convex tools to identify and breakdown myofascial restrictions, soft tissue fibrosis, scar tissue adhesions, and chronic inflammation, which should result in improved outcomes for both the patient and the physical therapist when compared to other manual therapy techniques. The shape of the tools allow for ease of use, swift and comfortable adjustment to contours of the body, minimal stress on the PT’s hands, and maximal penetration into soft tissue.
Patients that are typically treated with IASTM include those diagnosed with soft-tissue dysfunctions such as tendinopathies, ligament sprains, muscular strains, and scar tissue adhesions. Further examples of common injuries treated with this technique include Achilles tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, IT band syndrome, medial and lateral epicondylitis, cervical/lumbar sprains/strains, patellofemoral disorders, rotator cuff tendinosis, shin splints, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Further research needs to be completed to appropriately determine which pathologies are most effectively treated with IASTM.
The proposed mechanism of IASTM utilizes controlled microtrauma resulting in increased fibroblast production to the treatment area, stimulating an inflammatory response triggering the healing process of affected tissues. Also, this technique is believed to increase blood flow to the area, as well as facilitate the breakdown of cross-link adhesions found in collagen fibers of myofascial soft tissues and scar tissue. However, perhaps the greatest proposed advantages of IASTM is that the tool helps to protect the PT’s hands from injury, and provide the clinician with greater palpation skill to specifically identify an area that needs to be treated.
Although further research needs to be completed to determine if IASTM is truly any more beneficial than other manual therapy techniques, much of the evidence supports IASTM as an effective treatment to determine. Burke et al proposed that the primary benefit of IASTM over other manual therapy techniques may only be the decreased stress on the hands of the physical therapist2. However, according to Loghmani et al, injured ligaments treated with instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization were “43% stronger, 40% stiffer, and 57% more able to absorb energy” than the untreated contralateral injured side3.
The jury is still out if this is a more effective treatment than traditional manual therapy, IASTM continues to make a strong case to be greatly beneficial for both the patient and the clinician. In our clinic, we have seen great results with patients that have soft tissue restrictions. Within one treatment session patients are able to move better after use of IASTM. Some common areas we see great results with are low back, knee, neck, and ankle.
For more information on IASTM Therapy and to schedule your free consultation contact us at 305-735-8901 or click here.