The use of instruments (tools) to perform soft tissue release has been growing in popularity among chiropractors, massage therapists, physiotherapists and has even gained traction among the general population for self-use. Generally, it is a useful method to promote recovery, enhance blood flow, and ‘strip’ sore muscles or fascia. In the literature its purpose is described as a method to decrease fascial adhesions, improve range of motion and decrease pain. Laboratory settings have proven that the use of instruments actually increase fibroblast proliferation and collagen repair.
A systematic review evaluating the effectiveness of Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilizations (IASTM) was published in 2016. The review evaluated 7 randomized control trials that examined IASTM as a treatment for a number of pathologies. The studies compared Graston to control, manipulation, soft tissue mobilization, foam rolling, exercise, among others
Overall studies found general improvements across a range of pathologies using Graston as well as other modes of conservative care. Specifically, both IASTM and traditional treatment of lateral epicondylitis improved patient strength, pain, and patient reported scores for Tennis Elbow. Similarly, patients with carpal tunnel syndrome had improvements across outcome measures in both IATSM and Soft Tissue Mobilization groups at follow-up. For myofascial trigger points, both the control and IASTM groups reported acute improvements in outcome measures post-intervention. Other studies found that IASTM was better than no treatment for the posterior shoulder musculature. Perhaps the most intriguing finding came from a study that compared range of motion pre- and post-treatment, but also at 24 hours follow up. They found that IASTM and foam rolling both increased ROM post-treatment but only Graston lasted until the 24-hour follow-up. Lastly, in patients with patellofemoral pain syndrome, researchers found that both IASTM to local musculature and global musculature of the lower limb when combined with manipulation, and exercise were effective post treatment and at a 2-month follow-up.
Matt uses IASTM combined with rehabilitative exercises for many of his treatment protocols, including:
- Nerve injuries/irritation
- Scar tissue repair
- Muscle tension/Trigger points
If you have any more questions about whether some of your ailments might benefit from IASTM or some other form of therapy, don’t hesitate to ask one of our practitioners.
1. Davidson CJ, Ganion LR, Gehlsen GM, Verhoestra BE, Roepke JE, Sevier TL. Rat tendon morphologic and functional changes resulting from soft tissue mobilization. Medicine and science in sports and exercise. 1997 Mar 1;29(3):313-9.
2. Loghmani MT, Warden SJ. Instrument-assisted cross-fiber massage accelerates knee ligament healing. journal of orthopaedic & sports physical therapy. 2009 Jul;39(7):506-14.