Monday, September 24, 2012

Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Manipulation (IASTM) and Chiropractic

by Dr. Michael T. Lagueux II, D.C.

Positive Edge Chiropractic


One of the most powerful tools that we use in our office are Gua Sha tools.  While Gua Sha has traditionally been used for purposes other than musculoskeletal issues, we find that it works amazingly well for the purpose of breaking up scar tissue and adhesions.  We routinely use it with our patients to decrease pain, increase range of motion, and increase "tissue compliance", or the "softness" of a muscletendonligament, or the fascia.  Here's what two of our Gua Sha tools look like:



Extensive studies have shown that IASTM has an effect at the cellular level, which can actually be seen (under a microscope) as realigned and more parallel arrangements of collagen fibers.  Countless professional athletes and sports teams make use of IASTM to speed up recovery times and improve athletic performance (including the very famous Michael Phelps, who mentioned Graston Technique, a form of IASTM, in an interview on some of his training secrets).

However, we often use this technique on more "regular folks" (like ourselves) with great results.  It can help to break up scar tissue in areas that are chronically tight or in spasm.  Are you one of those people who "wears their shoulders like earrings"?  If you are (you're probably laughing right now), you could probably benefit from a few encounters with IASTM.  Or perhaps you're a runner or cyclist with a chronically tight iliotibial band, which is extremely common among individuals who participate in those activities.  IASTM can be used to "soften up" those ligaments, which results in decreased pain, increased range of motion and muscle activation, and a happy runner or cyclist.  Rock climbers can benefit, as they commonly have extremely tight forearms.  Tight muscles create pulling forces on the origins and insertion points (where the muscles attach).  Take a look at this example, the forearm of Positive Edge Chiropractic's very own Dr. Mike, a rock climbing addict:


Notice the large red spot by the medial antecubital area?  Um, I mean, the elbow area?  That area is where many wrist and finger flexor muscles originate.  Following an IASTM treatment, the skin often looks like this.  It's a bit of bruising that takes place under the skin, where bits of scar tissue called adhesions have built up during, in Dr. Mike's case, countless rock climbing sessions.  The tools that are used to perform IASTM are scraped across the skin and usually produces something like what you see in the picture above.  One thing to keep in mind is that this process is not painful at all!  Most patients report that the procedure feels very good, and are quite surprised by the "bruising" that takes place, considering that the process was not the least bit painful for them.  Usually any marks that have appeared on the skin as a result of receiving an IASTM treatment will be completely gone within a day or two.

So now you know about Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Manipulation!  And you've probably already been able to come up with a few areas on your body where you could use it!  Remember, it's great for people that have had chronic issues, like low back pain, neck pain, tight muscles, etc.  But it's also great for athletes, since they place extra stresses and strains on their bodies.  IASTM can help bring those tight and painful muscles, ligaments, and tendons back to a more normal pain-free state!

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