By Allie Fernandez, Student PT at Upstate Medical University
You may have had your PT use metal tools on you to gently massage painful or stiff areas. When a PT uses one of these tools, they’re performing a skilled intervention called Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization, or IASTM. You may have heard of the term “Graston” as well – this is a form of IASTM that comes with specific techniques, protocols, and certifications.
IASTM is beneficial for multiple reasons. For one, it allows your PT to assess tissue restrictions and abnormalities that may be contributing to your pain. Second, it allows the PT to apply less pressure, with greater specificity to problem areas. Third, it can help stimulate physiological changes in your tissues that promote healing and proper alignment of connective tissues.
These benefits are cited in recent research. For example, a 2019 Systematic Review that was published in the Journal of Athletic Training found that IASTM leads to greater increases in range of motion, greater decreases in pain, and greater improved patient-reported function compared to comparison treatments. 1 There is research in support of the use of IASTM for many conditions. 2 Some of the most common ones are:
- Patellar tendonitis
- Plantar fasciitis
- Achilles tendonitis
- Elbow epicondylitis
- Shoulder impingement
- Chronic low back pain
- Joint replacements
If you believe you may benefit from IASTM, talk to your PT and ask if it’s appropriate for you!
- Seffrin C, Cattano N, Reed M, Gardiner-Shires A. Instrument-Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization: A Systematic Review and Effect Size Analysis. Journal of Athletic Training. 2019;54(7).
- Cheatham SW, Baker R, Kresiwirth E. Instrument Assisted Soft-Tissue Mobilization: A Commentary on Clinical Practice Guidelines For Rehabilitation Professionals. The International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy. 2019;14(4):670-682.