What is IASTM?

Jan 30, 2019

 by Bryan Preston

What is IASTM? 

IASTM or Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization is a form of myofascial mobilization used to detect and relieve symptoms of scar tissue, adhesions and fascial restrictions within the soft tissue. It can also be used to facilitate and promote healing in the soft tissue. When used with stretching, strengthening and other modalities, IASTM has been a powerful addition to our treatment methods. 

Affectionately referred to as just “the tools” and looking like mid-evil torture devices, IASTM can be intimidating at first. When a therapist walks over with a stainless-steel tool that looks like a knife, it can be scary. The good news is that most people realize that IASTM isn’t so bad and scary after their first treatment. 

During a treatment session where IASTM is an appropriate treatment, a small amount of emollient is applied to the skin. This serves to allow the tool to glide across the skin without unwanted friction to occur and protect the skin. Light to moderate pressure is applied into the skin with the treatment edge of the tool. A handful of different strokes can be used depending on the need of treatment. For smaller areas being treated, 3-5 minutes and larger areas may require longer.  

What can you except from a normal treatment using IASTM? It is normal to have some discomfort, even tenderness but you should not experience pain during IASTM. Everyone’s tolerance level is different, so it is important to communicate with your treating therapist throughout the session. Good communication will help improve the effectiveness of your treatment and avoid any negative side effects. Redness of the skin, mild warming sensation and mild discomfort similiar to using a foam roller or a massage is to be expected.  

What should I watch out for? Treatment should not cause broken capillaries, bruising, or pain. Lack of good communication between therapist and patient can result in any of these. This is our first line of defense to prevent all of these from happening. Over treatment on an area can also lead to these symptoms. Dysfunctional soft tissue is more susceptible to these symptoms and must be considered. 

IASTM can be used to treat many different abnormalities including tendinopathies, postural abnormalities, myofascial pain syndromes, entrapment syndromes, ligament pain, scar tissue/adhesions edema and more. If you have questions or think that IASTM might be able to help, talk with your therapist about if it is right for you. If appropriate, IASTM in conjunction with your plan of care can help speed your recovery and get you back to the things you want to be doing faster!



Bryan Preston has over 25 years of training in martial arts and fitness and is a Physical Therapist Assistant. A 3rd degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Bryan is the hand to hand tactics instructor for Ghost Ring Tactical and holds many certifications in fitness and nutrition including person trainer, FMS, kettlebell, Precision Nutrition Level 2, Certified RockDoc and more. Bryan has been teaching in the Marlton/Medford area to children and adults from ages 3 years old and up.