Updated: Jan 5
Are you a torture tool survivor? If not, should you be??
I’m confident you’ve seen the badges of honor many of my patients wear around the gym.
Those big, purple bruises. Usually, these aren’t just any kind of bruise either - they are the types of bruises you WANT to show off. Where do they come from?! WHY would ANYONE subject themselves to this mid-evil sorcery!?
Usually, these bruises come after some sort of IASTM treatment. You may have heard the
words IASTM (sounds like a-stim when people pronounce it). This stands for “Instrument
Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization”. IASTM uses tooled friction massage to mechanically alter tissue. The thought behind IASTM revolves around the idea of applying controlled microtrauma to the tissue via an “instrument” in order to stimulate the local inflammatory response.
Now-stop right there-people hear the word inflammation and FREAK OUT! Don’t forget,
inflammation is how our body heals things. The inflammation cascade is thought to initiate the re-absorption of inappropriate fibrotic or scar tissue. It is proposed that it also triggers a cascade of healing, resulting in remodeling of the affected soft tissue structures being treated.
The use of a tool usually saves some stress on your hands, and usually allows you to get deeper. There is usually increased vibration through the areas of the tool when they scan over an area that needs treatment. If you’ve had this done before, the fibrotic areas are the “crunchy” or “gritty” spots.
Why would you use IASTM?
Usually, IASTM is used when people are struggling with limited motion or pain during motion, if they have an area of “tight” muscles, or on a surgical scar. Or perhaps someone just likes bruises! We use IASTM to treat conditions that end in “itis” or “osis” frequently.
Think things like trigger points, rotator cuff problems/tears, plantar fasciitis, tendinitis/tendinosis, bursitis, tennis or golfer’s elbow, etc. We also can use it to aid in the treatment of tension headaches and various syndromes (ITB Syndrome, Dequervain’s, Patello-Femoral issues, Carpal Tunnel, etc). I’ve used it after patients have had implants to prevent encapsulation or adhesion.
Especially if it hurts, IASTM is usually a good option for many.
Because I believe in full disclosure and providing evidence-based recommendations- I will say, the evidence around IASTM is still emerging. It remains a hot topic of debate in the
physiotherapy world. Anecdotally, I have great results in the office. Keep in mind, however, that a continually tight muscle is usually one that needs to be strengthened. So, scraping away at it daily will never solve the reason it is tight.
Be sure you are getting together with a movement specialist to help assess why various areas are continually problematic for you.
Ya, sounds like I should check this out. Does it hurt??
Long story short- it depends. But, it’s never prevented anyone in my office from coming back or doing it again that I know of. For a lot of people they think it feels amazing- almost euphoric. If you like a deep tissue massage, you will likely fall into that category. Plantar fasciitis and tennis elbow seem to be the two most sensitive issues I have treated. If we get into your pec, your lat, or your sub-scap, this can also be a yucky area.
Remember, you do not need to bruise in order to experience the benefits of IASTM. However, most people do have some slight bruising. I almost always couple my treatments with cupping, and that definitely leaves marks.
People who should NOT candidates for IASTM include those with active implants (pacemaker, internal defibrillator, picc lines, or any other internal line), or those who are on blood thinners like coumadin or warfarin, or are taking Fluroquinolones.
It should never be done over open wounds, infection sites, or tumors. It should not be used over an area where you have a DVT, suspected DVT, or if you have known clotting issues. It would never be used over the carotid artery/vein.
If you are unsure if you have a contraindication to this technique, check with your
doctor first before trying anything like this at home!
Interested in giving this a whirl- reach out to us and get an appointment booked by emailing, or texting/calling 701-799-4362!