The Benefits of Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization

One of the fastest non-invasive ways to treat musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) is instrumental assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM). The technique is similar to a traditional Chinese medical treatment Gua Sha. Meanwhile, ancient Greeks and Romans used a small metal instrument called “strigil” for therapy in bathhouses. The combination of these two practices gave birth to the modern IASTM.

IASTM therapist uses a special metal instrument to scrape the skin slightly. Such scraping improves blood flow and treats chronic inflammation, degeneration, muscular imbalance, and more.

How Does IASTM Work?

IASTM has proven useful for chronic injuries as well as other MSDs. In many cases, injuries heal by creating a pattern of fibers that result in scars or adhesions. They can limit the motion and cause pain and discomfort.

The metal instrument used by IASTM specialists scrapes the affected area and allows the therapist to feel the bumps to identify the problem area. The instrument stimulates blood flow and a healing response from the organism, which produces fibroblasts (cells that assist in wound healing by synthesizing collagen and elastin). The instrument can also break up the scar tissue.

Who Can Benefit from IASTM?

People with motion limitations, chronic injury pain, sports injuries, pain during motion, and muscle recruitment problems can benefit from the instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization. It’s used for a variety of conditions, including:

  • Capral Tunnel Syndrome
  • Post-surgical and trauma-related scars
  • Tendinitis
  • Myofascial pain
  • Musculoskeletal imbalances
  • Chronic joint swelling/pain caused by strains/sprains
  • Muscle strains
  • Back and neck pain
  • Trigger finger
  • Acute ankle sprains
  • And more

People suffering from chronic pain and discomfort usually benefit from IASTM the most. This is an especially useful technique for patients who don’t respond to standard physical therapy. Patients with chronic back, neck, and hip pain, stemming from injuries and accidents, respond well to IASTM. IASTM can be used separately or combined with other treatments for MSDs.

What to Expect From IASTM Session

Each IASTM session is rather short. It doesn’t last more than several minutes. The therapist glides the metal instrument over the skin surface slightly pressing to get a response from your body.

The procedure may be slightly uncomfortable. The skin usually reddens and warms up. Mild bruising may occur. However, there have been no cases of intolerance.


Contraindications of Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization

While the technique seems harmless, you should learn several contraindications before taking advantage of IASTM. People with serious bruises due to recent trauma, skin infections and rashes, open wounds, unhealed fractures, burn scars, and varicose veins should avoid the therapy. Other contraindications are:

  • Osteomyelitis
  • Myositis Ossificans
  • Kidney dysfunction
  • Use of anticoagulants


IASTM can become a beneficial choice of therapy for people suffering from various types of MSDs. Even if you don’t think you have any contraindications to this procedure, please consult your doctor before making an appointment.