Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Manipulation - What is it?
Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Manipulation (IASTM) is something that changed the way I practice in more way than one. Previously I had been to focused on the site of pain i.e. If a patient had back pain, it must be due to the back right? Wrong!
This instrument really allows me to join the dots up. It is possible that a problem may be related to restriction or dysfunction within something called fascia. Fascia is a form of tissue that wraps around most of the fibres within our body. It allows the body to work in chains. It is very rare that any movement we do is carried out in isolation, but restriction in one or more of the chains may cause altered or dysfunction movements. This instrument aids in identifying and treating those dysfunctions. There is a mild warning associated with this form of treatment though, It may be uncomfortable and it may often bruise.
Who can have IASTM?
Honestly, Absolutely anybody!
However, It is a favourite amongst Body Builders and Fitness Models. Amongst some of them it is known as "Scraping". For me, this is something that we would of called "up regulate" or "activate". This is a particular technique we do where we use the instrument in order to increase the activity of a muscle. This can be very popular amongst the athletes prior to shows as it may increase the appearance of the tone of the muscle but also increase the level of contraction. I may add, to my knowledge there is no randomised controlled studies on this, but anecdotally this certainly seems to be the case.
Now that we are talking about evidence of IASTM, is there any? and if so, what does it say?
Well, a systematic review was carried out in by Lambert et al. (2017) which concluded that IASTM may have a physiological effect by:
Increasing blood flow
Reducing Tissue Viscosity
The Neurological interruption of pain receptors
That means it is thought to have a multi-faceted effect!