Perhaps you’ve been hearing about massage with metal “spoons” or implements and wondered why anyone would want that performed on them. Traditionally “scraping massage” has been used in Chinese (Gua Sha) and other Asian cultures to stimulate healing of injuries as well as from illness. Now similar techniques are gaining popularity in Western healthcare, especially among athletes.
What is it?
Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization is a type of soft tissue massage using an instrument or tool to help detect and break down areas of scar tissue in order to restore normal muscle and joint motion. When soft tissue (muscle, tendon, ligament and fascia) is injured, it “knits” itself back together by laying down fibrous tissue in a random crisscrossing pattern. Where fibers intersect, cross-links are formed. The problem is that this scar tissue does not move or stretch well and the fibers tend to tear easily, making you stiff, weak and prone to re-injury. That’s why if you sprained your ankle when you were 10 years old, you will tend to keep re-spraining that same ankle again and again.
We used to think that once you have developed scar tissue it would be with you for life, as would your frequent re-injuries. Research now shows that scar tissue can be broken down and encouraged to “remodel” to a more normal, linear alignment so that it no long restricts normal movement.
How does it work?
The doctor strokes your skin lightly with a metal tool. It doesn’t hurt and does not generally cause bruising. When the tool passes over fibrous tissue it vibrates like a tuning fork, helping to detect and amplify the areas of soft tissue restriction. This helps the doctor know where treatment is most needed. Continued stoking breaks down the fibrous tissue. Within a few treatments, doctor and patient can feel the rough, grainy tissue becoming smooth and soft.
By integrating IASTM with movement and rehabilitative exercise, this softened scar tissue can be encouraged to “remodel” into healthy tissue leaving you stronger and more flexible. IASTM treatment is often done in conjunction with chiropractic adjustments, therapeutic exercises and functional taping.
What conditions can it help?
IASTM is especially helpful for chronic conditions or problems that just keep coming back. We’re using it to treat conditions such as tennis elbow, forearm tendonitis, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis, patellar tendonitis and rotator cuff impingement syndromes. It can also be helpful to break down scar tissue post-surgically.
The bottom line.
In short, you may not have to “just live with” pain or disability from old injuries. IASTM is an effective tool that can be used in conjunction with chiropractic adjustments, therapeutic exercises and kinesiotaping to treat conditions that are chronic or tend to recur.