Instruments Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM), also called the Graston Technique®, is a myofascial release and massage technique that involves the use of metal or plastic tools to improve soft tissue mobility in the body.
Handcrafted instruments were used in ancient Greece and Italy for therapeutic purposes in public bathing houses. The origins of IASTM have also been traced to the “Gua Shua,” a Chinese instrument used thousands of years ago.
Modern IASTM was developed in the 1990s primarily for athletes, but today the technique is used by chiropractors, physical therapists, and massage therapists to also treat patients with myofascial restrictions. Today, IASTM tools are made with superior design and have the capability to address a wide range of conditions.
Many of the tools used in IASTM, such as blades, scrapers, and other sharp tools, are designed by the Graston® company, though other companies have created their own version of metal or plastic scraping and rubbing tools as well. The main goal of these tools is to free soft tissue and myofascial restrictions to improve movement.
IASTM treatment may provide the following benefits:
Risks of treatment include bruising, redness, increased pain, and failure to alleviate symptoms.
During an IASTM session, the physical therapist will use an IASTM tool to search for areas of fascial and muscle tension, which will feel crumbly or craggy as the PT passes over them. Once those areas are identified, the PT will use the tool to scrape at them.
As the PT scrapes at those areas, the affected tissues will be micro traumatized, initiating the body’s natural inflammatory response. This inflammation will in turn lead to reabsorption of the excess scar tissue and fibrosis causing the restriction.
Patients with the following impairments may benefit from IASTM:
Patients suffering from the following conditions may also benefit from IASTM:
The physical therapist will begin by exposing the treatment area and using a metal tool to rub the skin and identify spots that need attention. Patients will feel gently scraping sensations that may also feel slightly gravelly as the active motions or stretch tool is rubbed over tight areas of the fascia.
Patients may feel some discomfort but should let their therapist know if the discomfort becomes unbearable. Once treatment is completed, the skin in the treatment area will likely be red and some patients may experience slight bruising if the PT used a rigorous approach. Patients may be instructed to perform active motions or stretch to increase flexibility and prevent scar tissue or fascia restrictions from reforming.