The Tool of our Trade

Tooling - IASTM - Header image

IASTM - What is it?

A revolutionary treatment technique used in physiotherapy is the use of an instrument or a tool, which enables the physiotherapist to locate and treat an area of soft tissue dysfunction.

The official term is called Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilisation or IASTM. The technique itself is said to have evolved from the traditional Chinese Medicine technique called Gua Sha. However, Gua Sha uses the principle of Meridians to move the bad “Qi” out of the body. You could perhaps say that IASTM is a modernised version of Gua Sha using anatomical reasoning. IASTM is growing rapidly in popularity due to its effectiveness and efficiency in treating musculoskeletal conditions while remaining non-invasive compared to other treatment techniques such as Trigger Point Dry-Needling or Acupuncture. 

IASTM is performed using an ergonomically designed tool most commonly made of stainless steel. The tool is used to detect and treat fascial restrictions, effectively treat scar tissue, chronic inflammation and/or degeneration.  As with any physiotherapy treatment, the use of IASTM is also supplemented with exercise prescription and additional methods such as joint mobilisation designed to correct any biomechanical issues by addressing musculoskeletal strength and muscle imbalances or weaknesses. 

IASTM Tooling around the knee at Physio Effect

IASTM Tooling around the knee at Physio Effect

How Does IASTM Work?

Soft tissue injury involves damage to muscles, ligaments, tendons and fascia (connective tissue) somewhere in the body. Common soft tissue injuries usually happen after a sprain, strain or a blow to the body resulting in ruptured blood vessels or overuse of a particular body part. Soft tissue injuries can result in pain, swelling, bruising and loss of function. Adhesions within the tissue may develop as a result of repetitive strain/overuse, surgery, or immobilisation. 

Often, people with soft-tissue injuries do not seek out treatment until the injuries have become chronic (weeks/months after injury). By this point, the body has completed most of its self-healing process. Scar tissue and adhesions are formed during this healing process, which limits motion and often causes pain. Scar tissue and adhesions essentially act like super glue in your body. When scar tissue is created after injury, new cells are laid down excessively and in a disorganised manner. Scar tissue/adhesions prevent the muscle or other tissues from lengthening appropriately. It is often necessary to restart the healing process in order to remodel the soft tissues in the affected area. By introducing controlled micro-trauma to affected soft tissue using IASTM, a local inflammatory response is stimulated. This micro-trauma initiates reabsorption of inappropriate or excessive scar tissue and facilitates a remodelling of the affected soft-tissue structures. After IASTM treatment, scar tissue can be remodelled so that the cells become organised in a direction that better promotes movement.

The ergonomic design of the tool used for IASTM provides the physiotherapist with the ability to locate these soft tissue restrictions and allows them to treat the affected area with the appropriate amount of pressure.  


What should I expect after an IASTM treatment? 

It is important to note that IASTM’s ability to reinitiate healing comes from the fact that it is essentially re-injuring the body (although to a lesser degree and in a controlled manner). This may cause mild discomfort during the procedure. There may be soreness in the treatment area for a day or two following treatment and occasionally bruising may occur.

What are common conditions treated with IASTM?

  • Tennis or Golfer’s Elbow
  • Neck or Back Pain
  • Plantar Fascitis
  • Rotator Cuff , Achilles or Patella Tendinopathy
  • DeQuervain’s Tensosynovitis
  • Post-Surgical Scars
  • Ligament Sprains
  • Muscle Strains
  • IT Band Syndrome
  • Shin Splints
  • Chronic Ankle Sprains/Stiff Ankle
  • Arthritic Pain

What are the benefits following IASTM?

  • Improved range of motion
  • Improved muscle strength and function
  • Altered pain perception and reduction of pain

IASTM is a common treatment technique utilised by the therapists at Physio Effect. The dedicated team at Physio Effect provides a full package of services that will ensure you’re supported through injury prevention, assessment, recovery and helping you achieve your ultimate performance goals.