Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Massage (IASTM) is a technique involving the use of tools for the treatment of soft tissue injuries involving muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia. Tools come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are made from varying materials. The best tools are usually forged from stainless steel because they provide superior touch and feedback to the practitioner who can feel tissues changes such as adhesions and increased tissue tension.
The origins of IASTM are said to have been developed from Traditional Chinese Medicine called Gu Sha around 3000 years ago. Tools were used to ‘scrape away disease’ along the meridian lines. In the 20th Century James Cyriax developed cross fibre friction techniques for the treatment of soft tissues problems. These techniques were applied by the hands. In the 1990s David Graston is said to have created instruments to ‘save’ the hands and Graston tools/techniques were developed. IASTM is the umbrella term for the treatment of soft tissues using tools. Since then IASTM has become increasingly popular with physiotherapists, osteopaths, chiropractors and sports massage therapists and is now used in the Premier League by a number of clubs.
IASTM tools are used to treat scar tissue and fascial restrictions and are indicated for painful or limited motion, motor control or muscle recruitment problems. Conditions for which IASTM are commonly used are Medial Epicondylitis (Golfer’s Elbow), Lateral Epicondylitis (Tennis Elbow), Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Plantar Fasciitis, Rotator Cuff Tendinosis/tendinitis etc., neck pain, back pain, hip pain etc.