All about IASTM

IASTM, or Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization, is a valuable pain relief method. Unlike traditional Gua Sha, IASTM focuses on precise use of ergonomic tools to break down scar tissue and adhesions, improving various conditions such as neck pain, plantar fasciitis, and more. Effective bodywork doesn't need to cause pain.

All about IASTM

“What the heck is an IASTM??” you may be asking yourself. IASTM is Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (yeah, it’s a mouthful!) and Michigan Massage and Wellness is excited to offer this valuable pain relief protocol to our treatment options!

IASTM is a spin-off of traditional Asian medicine called Gua Sha. Gua Sha involves lightly scraping the skin to produce light (or, in some cases, severe) petechiae (essentially broken capillaries under the skin). Unfortunately, it has gotten a bad reputation, been called dangerous, and some believe that it does more harm than good.

However, Gua Sha wasn’t used to treat the musculoskeletal conditions plaguing many people today. Still, it was used in more TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) fashion and used along the meridians to move the bad chi out of the skin and help with illness and disease.

What sets IASTM apart is the approach that we use. We don’t follow meridians, and the tools are used as an extension of our hands but with more precision. The goal is to break down scar tissue and adhesions that are causing restrictions in the soft tissues and negatively affect the underlying muscles’ movement patterns, fascia, tendons, and ligaments. While there may be some ‘bruising’ or redness, you should never walk out of a session looking like the photo above (and if you do, it might be time to up your bodywork regime!)

Using specially designed ergonomic tools, the goal of IASTM is to detect and treat fascial restrictions and adhesions (such as scar tissue or chronically tight, overused, under stretched muscles) and encourage the rapid breakdown of said adhesions.

IASTM can be used as an effective treatment for several conditions, including:

  • Neck pain
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Rotator cuff tendinitis
  • Myofascial pain and restrictions
  • Carpal tunnel
  • Ligament sprains
  • IT band syndrome
  • Scars

If you have been struggling with pain, movement dysfunction, limited range of motion, or just not getting the results you should be from your regular self-care routine, consider asking your therapist about receiving some IASTM at your next appointment. This can often be a gentler approach and yield more significant results in less time than what you have experienced before.

Bodywork shouldn’t hurt. We live in such a ‘no pain, no gain’ world. Maybe it’s time to stop rolling our quads with 45# barbells, getting pummeled to the point of crying in a massage or just beating ourselves to a pulp on the gym floor. Get out of that mentality and start respecting your body a little more and getting the type of work it needs, and you might be surprised that effective bodywork doesn’t have to hurt!

In good hands,

Rebecca Tamm, LMT


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