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Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Manipulation

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Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Manipulation (IASTM) Overview

What is Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Manipulation (IASTM)?

Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Manipulation (IASTM) is a form of manual therapy that uses specialized tools to effectively treat soft tissue injuries and dysfunction. These tools, typically made from stainless steel or other durable materials, help physical therapists detect and treat areas of soft tissue fibrosis, chronic inflammation, and degeneration. IASTM is a modern adaptation of traditional Chinese medicine techniques like Gua Sha, but it is refined for clinical use in physical therapy.

Graston TechniqueTM

We utilize the GrastonTM instruments, which is a specific form of Instrumented Soft Tissue Manipulation.

How Does it Work?

IASTM works by applying controlled microtrauma to the affected soft tissue areas. This process stimulates a local inflammatory response, which helps reabsorb scar tissue and initiate the healing process. Here’s a step-by-step look at how IASTM works:

  1. Tool Selection: The therapist selects appropriate instruments based on the size and contours of the treatment area.
  2. Tissue Evaluation: The therapist uses the tool to scan the soft tissues and identify areas of restriction or dysfunction through feedback from the tool and patient.
  3. Treatment Application: The therapist uses the tool to apply pressure and strokes to the affected areas, breaking down adhesions and promoting tissue remodeling.
  4. Post-Treatment: The therapist may follow up with exercises or stretches to promote mobility and further enhance the healing process.

Conditions Benefited by IASTM

IASTM can be beneficial for a wide range of musculoskeletal conditions, including:

  • Tendinopathies: Tendonitis, tendinosis, and tendinopathy in areas like the shoulder, elbow, and Achilles tendon.
  • Ligament Injuries: Sprains and chronic ligament injuries.
  • Fascial Restrictions: Myofascial pain syndrome and tight fascia.
  • Muscle Strains: Acute and chronic muscle strains.
  • Scar Tissue and Adhesions: Post-surgical or post-injury scar tissue and adhesions.
  • Chronic Pain Conditions: Conditions such as plantar fasciitis and IT band syndrome.

Safety of IASTM

IASTM is considered safe when performed by trained and certified physical therapists. Key safety aspects include:

  • Professional Training: Therapists undergo specific training to perform IASTM safely and effectively.
  • Controlled Application: The intensity and duration of the treatment are carefully controlled to avoid excessive tissue damage.
  • Patient Feedback: Continuous feedback from the patient helps tailor the treatment to their comfort and tolerance levels.
  • Contraindications: IASTM is not recommended for areas with open wounds, infections, or fractures, and caution is used for patients with certain medical conditions such as blood clotting disorders.

Effectiveness of IASTM

Numerous clinical studies and patient testimonials support the effectiveness of IASTM in treating various musculoskeletal conditions. Benefits include:

  • Improved Mobility: Increased range of motion in joints and soft tissues.
  • Pain Reduction: Significant relief from chronic and acute pain.
  • Enhanced Healing: Faster recovery from injuries through improved blood flow and tissue remodeling.
  • Functional Improvement: Better overall function and performance in daily activities and sports.


Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Manipulation (IASTM) is a highly effective, non-invasive treatment method for managing and healing soft tissue injuries. By breaking down scar tissue, reducing inflammation, and promoting the body’s natural healing processes, IASTM can help you achieve better mobility, pain relief, and overall function. If you’re dealing with chronic pain, injuries, or soft tissue restrictions, consider IASTM as part of your treatment plan.

For more information or to schedule a consultation, please contact us at Active Life Physical Therapy.

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