What Is IASTM?
Doctors of chiropractic (DCs) have always used their hands to increase blood flow and break up restrictions in injured soft tissue, fingers alone can’t detect restrictions at deeper levels or treat the full range of restrictions. Because of this, several companies have now developed handheld tools to perform instrument-assisted soft-tissue mobilization (IASTM). IASTM has two main functions: to break up abnormal densities in tissue, such as scar tissue, and to reinitiate first-stage healing in the body. After a soft tissue injury has occured the body begins laying down new collagen tissue triggered by a white blood cell response, and the repair process begins thus building scar tissue. IASTM is like a mild injury to the tissue which starts this process over again and helps the body to heal itself. Though scar tissue is essentially a “patch” at the site of an injury, helping it to heal, it is much less flexible than normal tissue. In the long run, scar tissue can cause restricted motion, which leads to pain when, for example, a patient with a sprained ankle tries to return to running. Typically by the time you start to feel pain the body has completed the healing process and the scar tissue has built up, possibly restricting motion or causing persistent pain. Common soft tissue problems that respond well to IASTM are Iliotibial band syndrome (ITB), Plantar fasciitis, Tendinitis, chronic tight muscles, and both medial and lateral epicondylitis also known as golfers and tennis elbow just to name a few.
Using IASTM to re-initiate the first stage of the healing process does mean that we are producing mild trauma to the soft tissue that we are treating. Common effects after treatment are soreness to the tissue and redness due to the increased bloodflow to the area. Bruising is common also and these effects typically disappear after a day or 2. For a typical treatment a skin lubricant is applied to the surface of the skin we are working on. Next the tool is dragged over the skin with light pressure at first until an area of scar tissue is located and the pressure is increased as the scar tissue is broken up. Its during this breakdown of scar tissue where you might feel discomfort.