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Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Manipulation

July 26th, 2017 182 post views

During their education, chiropractors are taught all kinds of treatment techniques. One of the techniques that I use frequently at the clinic in Eastbourne is called instrumented assisted soft tissue manipulation, or IASTM for short. People often ask me questions about this technique, so I thought it would be a good idea to write a blog about it to help answer any questions you may have.

Image shows Eastbourne Chiropractor Joshua French to accompany his blog on soft tissue manipulation

Lushington Chiropractor Joshua French

What is IASTM?

So firstly, what exactly is IASTM? The history of IASTM seemingly dates back to ancient China, where it was performed with tools made of ivory or bone. No

wadays practitioners of IASTM normally use either stainless steel tools or tools using some sort of plastic. The tools are used to affect the muscles and ligaments of the body. It is similar to massage in a way, but can be more precise. On top of this, because of the stainless steel tools IASTM is able to achieve results that massage alone would be unable to. Another benefit of using a stainless steel tool over a hand is that the tool carries a certain amount of resonation in it. Over a patch of muscle which is tighter and more adhesive than the surrounding tissue, the resonance of the tool will cause the area to feel like there are coffee granules beneath the skin. This resonation allows a trained IASTM practitioner to pick up directions that specific muscle fibres are more adhesive in, which allows the treatment to be much more specific and therefore effective.



One of the most common misconceptions among chiropractors, osteopaths or physiotherapists that use IASTM without proper training is that to use IASTM properly, you need to bruise the tissue. This is believed because many practitioners use too much force and think that bruising is equal to positive tissue change. However, in some cases this desire to cause bruising actually leads to compromised tissue by way of widespread bruising. Obviously if you’re trying to improve the healing times of ligamentous or muscle injuries, compromised tissue in the form of bruised tissue is not the way to go!

Forms of IASTM

One of the most common forms of IASTM is called Graston technique. This was a technique developed by a group of chiropractors in America. There has been a lot of research produced by the Graston foundation showing several positive affects. One of the most famous Graston research papers was carried out on rat ligaments believe it or not! In this study, the researchers wanted to see if using Graston technique on healing rat ligaments would alter the structure of the healed ligament in any way. What they found was that the rat ligaments that received Graston therapy healed in a much more organised and therefore stronger orientation, whereas the rat ligaments that didn’t receive Graston therapy healed with fibres running in all sorts of directions. This shows that for people that sprain their ankles for example, IASTM can be used to help improve the healing time and also improve the outcomes once the healing has finished.

Another way to use IASTM is to reduce the tightness of tissues or muscles. Sometimes tight muscles are caused by overfiring of the nervous system, which is responding too much to a certain stimulus. By gently using the IASTM tool over an area that is being overstimulated, this overfiring can be reduced and the muscle can go back to a more relaxed state. The soft tissue of the body has several different receptors within it, one of which is called a mechanoreceptor. This type of receptor senses pressure, and sends signals back to the central nervous system which then decides what to do next. There are both slow response mechanoreceptors as well as fast response mechanoreceptors. Both of these types of mechanoreceptor respond well to different types of IASTM.

Picture of a stainless steel tool used for soft tissue manipulation

Picture of a stainless steel tool used for soft tissue manipulation

Hopefully this review of IASTM has not been too scientific. At the end of the day, it is just another soft tissue technique utilised by our Eastbourne chiropractors and sports massage therapists to aid the treatment of problems and make sure the greatest improvements can occur. If you like the sound of this, contact us here and book in with one of our practitioners in Eastbourne proficient in the usage of this technique.

Joshua French

Categories: Health and Advice from Expert Chiropractors in Eastbourne

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