Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Massage

Understanding IASTM: A Comprehensive Guide to Your Musculoskeletal Health

In my role working and treating as a healthcare professional in Glasgow, I’ve gained expertise in an effective technique called Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilisation (IASTM). With this piece, I aim to share an in-depth understanding of IASTM, demystify it for those unfamiliar with the term, and demonstrate how it could potentially enrich your health journey.

Unpacking IASTM

IASTM – Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilisation – is a technique where trained professionals use specialised tools to apply targeted pressure to muscles, tendons, or ligaments – collectively known as soft tissues. This modality can offer a range of benefits, including pain relief, improved flexibility and mobility, and accelerated recovery. It’s a scientific approach to enhancing your body’s natural healing capacities.

IASTM: Known By Many Names

IASTM might seem like a niche term, but you might be familiar with it under different guises as IASTM is known by several other names based on the specific tools or techniques used.

Some common names you might encounter include:

  • Gua Sha: is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that scrapes the skin to improve circulation.
  • Rockblade: These are a series of Blades
  • HawkGrips: A type of IASTM tool used in physical therapy and rehabilitation.
  • Graston Technique®: This technique uses a set of six stainless steel tools of different shapes and sizes to treat various parts of the body.
  • FAKTR (Functional and Kinetic Treatment with Rehab): FAKTR incorporates the use of instruments in a more dynamic treatment approach involving functional movements.
  • ASTYM® (AStym therapy): This is a rehabilitation program that stimulates the regenerative healing processes of the body using specific tools.


Despite the array of names and subtle variations in technique, the fundamental aim remains the same – to facilitate the body’s healing process and promote optimal musculoskeletal health.

The Science Behind IASTM

IASTM works by inducing a controlled microtrauma to the affected soft tissues. The body responds by increasing local inflammatory response, breaking down scar tissue, and facilitating the production of collagen – a protein integral to the body’s healing process. This assists in realigning the fibres of the soft tissues, enhancing healing, and returning function.

Historical Roots of IASTM

IASTM, while bolstered by modern science, actually has its roots in ancient practices. Civilisations worldwide, from the Ancient Chinese with their Gua Sha technique to Ancient Greeks using strigils, have used tools to scrape or apply pressure to the skin to promote healing. Modern IASTM is essentially a more refined and scientific continuation of these age-old methods.

Benefits and Limitations of IASTM

As with any therapeutic modality, IASTM comes with its benefits and limitations. Benefits include reduced pain, increased range of motion, and improved functional outcomes. It’s non-invasive and can be personalised to cater to individual patient needs, making it a versatile technique.
However, it’s crucial to note that IASTM is not a standalone cure-all solution. It works best as part of a comprehensive rehabilitation program involving other modalities like exercises and lifestyle changes.

How IASTM Complements Other Treatments

One of the significant advantages of IASTM is its potential to complement other treatments. It can prepare a patient’s body for other physiotherapy interventions by reducing pain and increasing the range of motion. Additionally, IASTM can accelerate the effects of exercise-based treatments by promoting more rapid tissue healing and realignment.

Who Can Benefit from IASTM?

IASTM is beneficial for a wide range of individuals. Those suffering from chronic soft tissue disorders, athletes wanting to enhance recovery and performance, and individuals wanting to increase their mobility and flexibility can all potentially benefit. However, consultation with a healthcare professional is always important to understanding whether IASTM is appropriate for your unique health circumstances.

Addressing Common Misconceptions about IASTM

There are common misconceptions about IASTM, one of which is that it is an excessively painful procedure. While IASTM may cause slight discomfort, it’s usually described as a “good pain” – similar to that experienced when stretching a tight muscle.

Another misconception is that it leaves permanent bruising. In reality, any redness or slight bruising is temporary and part of the healing response.

Frequently asked Questions about IASTM

Whether you’re considering IASTM or simply curious, you may have questions. Here, we aim to answer some of the most common ones but always feel free to reach out for more specific concerns.

You may experience mild discomfort during treatment, but this is usually followed by a sense of relief and enhanced mobility.

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IASTM and Chronic Pain Management

IASTM has proven effective in managing chronic pain conditions, such as chronic neck and back pain, by reducing muscle tension and promoting healing. It’s not a quick fix, but part of a broader pain management strategy.

From Rehabilitation to Prevention: The Versatile Role of IASTM

IASTM isn’t just for rehabilitation after an injury; it also has a role in prevention. Regular sessions can help maintain soft tissue health, prevent scar tissue build-up, and improve flexibility and mobility, reducing the risk of future injuries.

Contraindications and Considerations for IASTM Treatment

While IASTM is a safe procedure for many, there are certain contraindications. These include, but are not limited to, individuals with inflammatory conditions, certain skin conditions, blood clotting disorders, or those who are pregnant. It’s important to consult with a trained professional who can assess your suitability for IASTM.

In conclusion, IASTM is a powerful, science-backed tool that can be a significant part of your health and well-being journey. As always, we’re here to guide you in understanding and choosing what’s best for your health.
Stay active, stay healthy, Glasgow!