Instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) is a technique that is certainly on the rise among health care and other medical professionals, especially when it comes to helping patients get over the effects of soft tissue injuries. In order to understand the inner workings of IASTM, it can be helpful to both compare this technique with traditional recovery methods as well as to learn more about soft tissue injuries themselves.
Soft Tissue Injuries Medically speaking, a soft tissue injury is defined as any damage done to the tendons, ligaments, myofascia or muscles in the body. These types of injuries are usually the result of some type of trauma experienced during physical activity. If you've ever twisted your ankle while playing basketball, for example, you've experienced a soft tissue injury. If left untreated, these types of injuries can lead to very painful and long lasting effects in those afflicted. With a number of proven benefits, IASTM is quickly becoming a highly sought after treatment for a number of common soft tissue injuries.
Traditional Recovery Methods
Traditional recovery methods for soft tissue injuries vary depending on the nature of the damage in question. One of the most common types of soft tissue injuries is a sprain, for example, and traditional recovery methods fall into the "RICE" category according to AAOS.org. RICE is an acronym that stands for "rest, ice, compression and elevation." For sprains of this type that are more moderate to severe, the injured person may have to wear a brace.
Another type of common soft tissue injury is Tendonitis, which is actually an inflamed response that comes about as a result of the body's own healing process. Several small strains or stresses aggravate the patient's tendon, all of which combines together to cause Tendonitis. Steroid injections, muscle braces, anti-inflammatory medication and other techniques are commonly used to treat these types of injuries.
Depending on the nature of the soft tissue injury, common techniques to aid in recovery also include seeing a chiropractor or visiting an acupuncture therapist. Acupuncture in particular is based on the belief that by providing a proper channel for energy to be released from the body (which happens through a series of needles being inserted at strategic positions in the skin), you can support the body's natural healing process and help relieve these types of injuries in a much more effective and thorough way.
On the surface, IASTM operates with a similar goal to some of the aforementioned traditional recovery methods. Doctors, chiropractors and other medical professionals always try to break up restrictions and obstructions that are forming in and around soft tissue in an attempt to increase blood flow and help the body's normal recovery process. The issue with those traditional recovery methods, however, is that doctors have traditionally used their hands. Not only is the continued use of this type of technique not as effective as it could be because deeper levels of tissue cannot be properly penetrated, but it also poses a long term health risk to the medical practitioners themselves.
Instead of forcing the medical practitioner to use his or her hands during the process, IASTM is completed with a series of instruments in varying sizes and materials. These instruments, often including beveled surfaces and other features according to ACAToday.org, allow the doctor to go deeper into the tissue than ever before. In the process, the practitioner is able to break up densities in tissue that are abnormal in nature, like scar tissue. When used effectively, IASTM allows the natural healing processes of the body to operate in much more effective ways than ever before. Extremity problems, spinal injuries and more are said to respond very positively to IASTM techniques.