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IASTM (Instruments Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization)


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.

History of IASTM

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.

Benefits of IASTM

IASTM treatment may provide the following benefits:

  • Improved tissue extensibility
  • Improved range of motion
  • Reduced pain
  • Reduced scar tissue formation
  • Improved cellular activity near the injury site

Risks of IASTM

Risks of treatment include bruising, redness, increased pain, and failure to alleviate symptoms.

How IASTM Works

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.

Who is a Candidate for IASTM?

Patients with the following impairments may benefit from IASTM:

  • Restricted mobility
  • Pain when making movements
  • Reduced range of motion
  • Decreased muscle use
  • Excessive scar tissue formation

Patients suffering from the following conditions may also benefit from IASTM:

  • Ligament sprains
  • Tendonitis and tendinopathy
  • Myofascial pain
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Scar tissue from surgery or trauma
  • Musculoskeletal imbalance
  • Neck pain
  • Trigger finger
  • Lower back pain
  • Shin splints

What to Expect During IASTM Treatment

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.


At OC Physical Therapy, patients receive a customized treatment plan to help them fully recover from injuries and overuse. Our dedicated team of physical therapists seeks to provide you with better overall health through quality care.
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