INSTRUMENT ASSISTED SOFT TISSUE MOBILIZATION
Instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization is a manual technique that uses a tool (typically stainless steel) to decrease pain and improve flexibility. This technique is derived from the ancient practice, gua sha, which used a stone instead of a stainless steel tool.
The tool is used in a light scraping manner across the skin and tissue which is either painful or limited in flexibility. Some practitioners will scrape rather aggressively which can lead to bruising. However, in our experience, this is not necessary and can lead to unnecessary pain. A light approach is all that is needed.
Instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization works by changing the sensory input and motor output of the nervous system, via the skin. Through proper scraping of the skin, it can start to change the perception (i.e. pain and stiffness). Pain is multifaceted and therefore can respond positively to multiple treatment approaches.
It works rather quickly! We typically see results within 3-5 minutes of applying the technique.
With that said, the improved flexibility and decreased pain don’t stay for long unless they are followed up with the correct exercise prescription to reinforce the gains made.
Like all manual techniques, they should always be combined with a proper exercise prescription to fix the underlying movement dysfunctions which are leading to pain and stiffness.
It can work for nearly anyone with muscular pain. Again, instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization should always be combined with a proper exercise prescription. If it’s not, then the improvements will not last.
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