Massage is often used as part of a physical therapy treatment plan for soft tissue mobilization in order to reduce pain and inflammation as well as improve range of motion. There are several different types of massages that are used including instrument-assisted massage. Instrument assisted massage, also known as myofascial massage or instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM), is a modern manual therapy technique used to treat individuals diagnosed with soft tissue abnormalities.
IASTM is performed with ergonomically designed instruments that detect and treat fascial (connective tissue) restrictions to effectively treat areas with soft tissue fibrosis (the formation of excess fibrous connective tissue in an organ or tissue in a reparative or reactive process to injury or damage - excessive scar tissue), chronic inflammation or degeneration.
Using ergonomically designed hand-held instruments, IASTM clinicians comb over the skin to find soft tissue problems. Then, the instruments are used with the appropriate amount of pressure to introduce controlled microtrauma to the area. Controlled microtrauma initiates reabsorption of fibrosis (excessive scar tissue) and facilitates healing as adhesions in the soft tissue are broken down and absorbed by the body, allowing restoration of full function.
There are several IASTM methods used by clinicians today, including Graston Technique, HawkGrips, Sound Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (SASTM) and Fluid Motion Soft Tissue Tools (FMST).
Graston Technique, HawkGrips, and FMST Tools use steel or plastic instruments that glide along the muscle, tendon or ligament. The application of a specified amount of pressure allows the clinician to discover the location of the scar tissue or restrictions. The instruments are then used to break up the restriction to help the patient recover range of motion and functionality.
SASTM works in a similar manner, except that the instruments locate restrictions through sound waves. Then, the tissue is treated with the appropriate amount of applied pressure. Some people have reported noticeable improvements after only one treatment. But most need 8-10 treatments over the course of a few weeks. No medications are required.
What to Expect
Prior to IASTM treatment, patients may be advised to complete five minutes of cardiovascular activity, such as riding a stationary bike or walking on a treadmill. Then, ultrasound or heat treatment may be applied to the injured area to warm up the soft tissue.
During the treatment, the clinician will use the hand-held instruments to scan, then treat the affected area using very specific, calculated massage techniques over the affected area(s). Treatment usually lasts 30 to 60 seconds over each area treated. Some discomfort may be felt during treatment, and there may be some bruising and small red dots over the area that was treated (called petechiae). If this happens, ice application to the affected area for about 15 to 20 minutes following treatment will probably ease the discomfort.
IASTM is generally done in conjunction with an exercise, stretching and strengthening program for rehabilitation to help the injured tissues heal and stay flexible as they heal.
IASTM is an effective treatment option for a variety of conditions including:
- Medial Epicondylitis (golfer's elbow)
- Lateral Epicondylitis (tennis elbow)
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Neck Pain
- Plantar Fascitis (foot pain)
- Rotator Cuff Tendinitis (shoulder pain)
- Patellar Tendinitis (knee pain)
- Tibialis Posterior Tendinitis
- Ankle Pain / Foot Pain / Heel Pain / Achilles Tendinitis
- DeQuervain's Syndrome
- Post-Surgical and Traumatic Scars
- Myofascial Pain and Restrictions
- Musculoskeletal Imbalances
- Chronic Joint Swelling Associated with Sprains/Strains
- Ligament Sprains
- Muscle Strains
- Non-Acute Bursitis
- Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) / Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD)
- Back Pain
- Trigger Finger
- Hip Pain (Replacements)
- IT Band Syndrome
- Shin Splints
- Chronic Ankle Sprains
- Acute Ankle Sprains (Advanced Technique)
- Surgical or Traumatic Scars
Many people have reported increased range of motion (ROM) and reduced pain after the first IASTM treatment. IASTM has been proven successful in reducing scar tissue problems from surgical and traumatic causes while achieving great results with pain control and rejuvenating joint, ligament, tendon and muscle flexibility.
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