RockBlades IASTM Evidence Based Treatment

A Neuromuscular Approach to IASTM

Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM) has been around for decades, dating back to its first use in China, where it’s known as Gausha. As it has become more popular in the U.S., therapists have found it a valuable part of their practice. The most common use of the instruments or tools is to produce a myofascial benefit, releasing the fascial tissue.

Even though fascial release is a well-established concept, Robert Schleip’s research has shown that it’s unlikely that there is an actual change to the fascia itself. Certainly the use of tools and other manual therapy will increase blood flow and circulation, which can have a great impact on healing. We can also expect an increase in glide between the layers of fascial following manipulation with tools or Myofascial release strategies creating greater mobility and reducing pain.

The Biggest Benefit of IASTM?

RockBlades Arm Treatment IASTMHowever, the strongest benefit of IASTM is less commonly discussed. The skin and fascial system have the highest density of sensory receptors than any other connective tissue. The skin makes up one of our five main senses and we rely heavily on it to provide feedback from the environment. Consider the motion that happens when you feel cold: you give yourself a small hug and rub your arms. Or think about when you step on something sharp and then quickly pull your foot away. These motions are reactions driven by sensory receptors in the skin and fascial layers. Your body senses the environment stimulus and then responds with a motor control change.

Using tools can have a similar effect on the nervous system. We know that ruffini endings and interstitial receptors are present in the skin and are receptive to sustained pressure. The sustained pressure on these receptors causes a relaxation or inhibitory effect on muscle tone. Applying sustained pressure over muscles of high tone can have an inhibitory effect and therefore allow for the tissue to relax and for more normal movement to occur.

Just the opposite is possible when using rapid, oscillating movements with the tools. Rapid movements stimulate pascinian corpuscles, which have a more fascilitory affect. So, in the case of applying IASTM toward tissue that is inhibited, the tissue can become stimulated and muscle tone can be increased. For example, applying rapid oscillations over the quadriceps muscle following a knee surgery can help stimulate the quad muscle and lead to improved motor control.

Targeting the Peroneals and Achilles Areas

Peroneals IASTM Treatments by ChiropractorsAnother great application includes targeting the peroneals and Achilles areas, which are often hypertonic in plantar fascia cases. Using the tool with sustained holds over the soft tissue has an inhibitory effect and causes muscle relaxation, allowing for better ankle mobility.

Once we can normalize muscle tone, remember to retrain the muscles and the nervous system. The tissue will inherently want to return to its prior state, so appropriate corrective movement patterns can help ingrain the new position and muscle tone. This can eventually become a commonly used pattern or habit by the client, preventing the old pattern from returning.

Case Study: Hip Pain in a H.S. Basketball Player

In a case example, I recently treated a high school basketball player with anterior hip pain. Pain is primarily anterior medial, and is reproduced with palpation or active muscle contraction of the psoas muscle. Increased muscle tone is also observed to the TFL and the rectus femoris. Weakness is noted to the glut max and medius. Functionally the patient has significant knee valgus collapse in transition from half kneeling to split squat. Treatment consisted of using sustained pressure trigger point release with direct palpation to the psoas. Followed by sustained pressure using the IASTM to the TFL and rectus femoris with the goal of inhibition to these muscles. I also provided IASTM to the glut max and medius using rapid oscillations for an activation effect on the glut muscles. We followed treatment with retraining of the half kneeling to split squat motion with cuing to maintain knee alignment. Significant pain reduction and functional movement improvement were seen in the first treatment, with results carrying over and lasting between sessions.

RockBlades IASTM Tools by RockTape

The tools have several uses overall, from being a great way to save your hands, to increasing blood flow, increasing tissue glide and even managing muscle tone. The tools can have a dramatic effect on the nervous system by influencing the sensory receptors within the skin and fascial layers. Consider this impact next time you apply to the tools with one of your clients.

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