Instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization is a type of manual therapy that involves the use of specialized ergonomic tools. When you undergo IASTM, your physical therapist will use contoured stainless steel rods to massage your muscles, skin, connective tissue and neurological tissue. The tools provide leverage that helps the specialist to break up scar tissue and restore blood flow to the affected parts of your body.
IASTM is performed by tens of thousands of clinicians worldwide. It is taught in more than 50 colleges and universities in physical therapy degree programs, and it's used by more than 500 professional and amateur sports organizations (including 16 MLB teams, 16 NBA teams, and 18 NFL teams).
Alliance physical therapists offer IASTM treatments at many of our partner clinics around the U.S.
Conditions We Treat
Here are some of the conditions IASTM is used to treat:
Tendinitis and tendinopathy — IASTM can be used to treat tendon inflammation, also known as tendinitis, in the shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees, feet and any other tendons. The gentle pressure of the instruments helps to increase blood circulation to the affected tendon, which helps to promote healing and prevent infection in that area. This technique can also treat overuse injuries, known as tendinopathy, in various body parts.
Muscle strains — Strains occur when a muscle or ligament (the fibrous tissues that hold bones together) is overstretched or torn. As with tendinitis, IASTM helps accelerate the healing rate by reducing inflammation and preventing scar tissue formation.
Scar tissue — In cases where excessive scar tissue forms, IASTM can help break it up. Excessive scar tissue often causes inflammation that leads to chronic pain, but IASTM can help to relieve that pain by reducing any inflammation caused by scar tissue.
What to Expect During Treatment
Every IASTM session starts with a warmup. Your physical therapist will move areas of stiff soft tissue to make your scar tissue more flexible. Then, they will use a stainless steel tool to lightly massage the affected area. The tool will press against your skin’s surface and apply pressure to the scar tissue underneath. They will adjust the pressure and speed as necessary and continue until they feel the scar tissue has been adequately broken up.
After treatment, the physical therapist will apply ice packs to your skin to relieve any soreness and prevent inflammation in the area where you received IASTM. They will likely schedule you for two sessions per week for five weeks. You will likely experience some degree of pain relief by the third or fourth session.
Interested in IASTM? Contact an Alliance physical therapy clinic in your area to learn more or to schedule an appointment.