What is IASTM Therapy?
By: Joe Fiore/Director – Ivy Rehab Decatur, IL
IASTM stands for Instrument Aided Soft Tissue Manipulation, and may also be called ASTYM or Graston. Both ASTYM and Graston are specific types of IASTM, much like Xerox is a type of copier. IASTM is used extensively in the outpatient orthopedic setting due to the results generated with the technique. The tools do not replace the hands of a physical therapist, but only add another option in a therapist’s tool bag.
The purpose behind the IASTM technique is multi-factorial. The techniques are designed to produce a healing response from the body to the affected area. This is accomplished through the breakdown of the capillary beds inducing nutrition to the tissues of the injured area. A secondary effect occurs at the site of scar tissue formation. Scar tissue is part of the body’s healing process for injured tissue. However, scar tissue is not as pliable, or contractile as normal tissue. Under a microscope, scar tissue appears as a plate of cooked spaghetti, whereas normal tissue appears as a box of uncooked spaghetti. With the pressure of the tools, mechanical changes at the cellular level can and do occur in order to normalize scar tissue as much as possible. The greatest effects from the IASTM tool are experienced when the clinician is aware of the fascial connections up and downstream from the affected area and can treat an entire limb, as opposed to spot treating. For example, when treating an elbow problem it is expected that the clinician treats up into the shoulder and down into the wrist and hand every visit. Important to note is that in order to achieve maximum results with IASTM, a comprehensive exercise program is necessary to stress the affected tissues and remodel the underlying tissues and create new movement patterns.
IASTM therapy is indicated for many different diagnoses treated with rehabilitation physical therapy on a daily basis. Originally designed to treat tendonitis, tendinosis, and tendinopathy, IASTM intervention also provides relief and increased functional outcomes in other instances. We have used IASTM on strains and sprains, arthritic joints, chronically painful tissues, post-operative areas with proper scar and incision healing, myofascial dysfunction just to name a few. Side effects of the treatment may include mild bruising along the lines of treatment, and delayed onset muscle soreness. Often times, the patients describe a general warming feeling or even some tingling in IASTM treatment areas for up to 24 hours.
IASTM has been an efficient and effective treatment choice for us at Ivy Rehab, and most of our clinics have specialists training in incorporating this type of soft tissue injury mobilization as part of a well-rounded treatment plan.
Article by: Holly Lookabaugh-Deur, PT, DSc, GCS, CEEAA
Ivy Rehab Network
Holly is a practicing physical therapist, partner and Director of Clinical Services at Ivy Rehab Network with more than 40 years of experience in sports management with young athletes, and is board certified as a geriatric clinical specialist and certified exercise expert for aging adults. Deuer is certified as an aquatic and oncology rehabilitation specialist and serves as adjunct faculty at Central Michigan University and Grand Valley State University.