Going back as far as hundreds or thousands of years, many civilizations have used tools or instruments held by hand to treat many different conditions. Whether it is cupping, hot stone massage, coining, or Guasha our ancestors recognized that sometimes you need more than just the bare hand to get the right effect.
Instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) is loosely based to the ancient Chinese art of GuaSha. It utilizes a dulled edge hard object (made of bone, plastic, or steel) to apply repetitive multidirectional strokes along the length of the muscle, tendon ligament or other soft tissue. The intended effect is to increase circulation to the area, and help properly organize or breakup scar tissue adhesions, relax muscle spasm, and increase range of motion. In it's ancient form very deep pressure was applied to the point of severe redness and bruising.
It's modern westernized reinterpretation developed in the 1990s and was more recently popularized in the form of Graston technique using custom made surgical grade stainless steel tools of various shapes and sizes to suit various applications and body parts.
Modern technique applies a lot less pressure and shorter duration to avoid bruising and decrease patient discomfort. The principle is still relatively the same. The added irritation (scientifically called micro trauma) is intended to re-stimulate healing and increase circulation and has been scientifically demonstrated to reduce adhesions, improve scar tissue orientation, and return tissue healing close to preinjury form.
As all techniques have their strengths and weaknesses, IASTM is best suited to more superficial and intricate areas over tendons and ligaments. The only limitations are 1st and foremost patient tolerance, and if the shape of the tool is an appropriate fit or shape for the surface area of the body part being treated.
In most applications deeper work still needs to be to be done by hand (or elbow is some cases). The technique is not meant to replace hands-on treatment only supplement it, and with proper application improve results in stubborn, chronic or hard-to-reach areas.
The tools might look intimidating to some but it's worthwhile trying if recommended by your physician. The minor temporary discomfort you might experience is a lot better than suffering with long-standing soft-tissue chronic inflammation and related aches and pains that traditional methods cannot manage completely.
I have attached images of tools and also a few short videos of various applications. If you have any questions or concerns or are wondering if you may benefit from the treatment please contact us and we will be happy to offer more information.