Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM) is a process in which the clinician uses a set of hand held instruments to break down the scar tissue and fascial restrictions in soft tissues (muscles, ligaments, tendons, fascia, and nerves).
Once the damaged areas are detected, the instruments are used to deliver a controlled microtrauma to the affected area. The purpose of the microtrauma is to stimulate a local inflammatory response, which initiates reabsorption of excessive scar tissue and facilitates a cascade of healing processes. Adhesions within the soft tissue can form due to immobilization, repetitive strain, or as a result of surgery. With IASTM these adhesions are broken down which allows the patient to regain function in previously affected area. Other benefits include:
- Separates and breaks down collagen cross-links, and splays and stretches connective tissue and muscle fibers.
- Facilitates reflex changes in the chronic muscle holding pattern (inhibition of abnormal tone/guarding leading to pain reduction via improved sensory input).
- Alters/inhibits spinal reflex activity (facilitated segment).
- Increases the rate and amount of blood flow to and from the area (angiogenesis vs. immediate local increases in blood flow).
- Increases cellular activity in the region, including fibroblasts and mast cells.
- Increases histamine response secondary to mast cell activity.