Soft tissue is involved in almost every injury — after all bones, muscles, tendons, and ligaments are all connected.
So, if a muscle is strained, the myofascial tissue most likely also endures some strain. Instrument-assisted soft-tissue mobilization (IASTM) is rapidly becoming a more common technique used in chiropractic offices.
Trigger point therapy has long been used in acupuncture, massage therapy, and by DCs to help patients recover from injuries and to ease pain. Using instruments allows the practitioner to break up restrictions at a deeper level than hand palpitations. Plus, different types of tools are available for different areas, muscles, and situations.
Trigger point therapy is an old, even ancient, modality. It was first practiced as part of traditional Chinese medicine. However, it was thought to channel and move chi, or energy, and wasn’t a treatment for musculoskeletal problems as it is today. Multiple studies have proven the effectiveness of instrument assisted adjustments to manage musculoskeletal disorders.
There are several well-known and widely used techniques for using IASTM. According to the American Chiropractic Association, IASTM is used by over 16,000 practitioners around the world.1 Several companies require clinicians to complete a basic training course before purchasing the instruments, as is the case for many different types of chiropractic instruments and tools. IASTM tools are constructed of a variety of materials — traditional Chinese medicine uses jade and buffalo horn. Modern tools are lucite, plastic, and increasingly stainless steel. Stainless steel is rapidly becoming the most frequently used construction material. Beveled edges, comfortable grips, and many other design factors make using IASTM tools easy for the clinician and effective for the patient.
Many patients experience some discomfort during an IASTM treatment and some bruising afterward. Since the treatment involves breaking up scar tissue, adhesions, and other restrictions at a deep level, it is not surprising that discomfort and bruising occur. The pain relief and healing are worth the shorter term discomfort in most cases.
When a treatment is effective, patients and DCs are happy; when that same treatment preserves the health of the DC, everyone is even happier. Using IASTM does offer some protection for the joints of the clinician. The physical demands on DCs are great, and if using instruments can both improve patient outcomes and lessen those demands then it makes sense to learn more about the instruments.
There are many ways to learn more about IASTM. Several studies are available, and more are being conducted to find out exactly why IASTM works. Many colleges now include IASTM in the curriculum, and videos and books are easy to find. Since soft tissue is involved in so many injuries, there is no doubt that IASTM will fit into most chiropractic offices.
Lukacs C. InstrumentAssisted SoftTissue Mobilization Explained. American Chiropractic Association. https://www.acatoday.org/content_css.cfm?CID=5272. Published September 2013. Accessed September 2014.
Bahry L, Boras A, Huggins T. Clinical effectiveness of the activator adjusting instrument in the management of musculoskeletal disorders: a systematic review of the literature. J Can Chiropr Associ. 2012;56(1):4957.