Background: Instrument-Assisted Soft-Tissue Mobilization (IASTM) is a common form of manual therapy involving rigid instruments of various shapes and materials to locate and treat soft tissue disorders. The therapeutic mechanism of IASTM is not clearly understood, but there is some evidence that the technique may support the breakdown and absorption of scar tissue, mobilization of fascia, and improved tissue healing. Currently, there are no systematic reviews that have specifically investigated the effects of IASTM on pain intensity of soft tissue disorders.
Objective: The purpose of this study was to systematically appraise the current evidence assessing the effects of IASTM on pain intensity in the treatment of musculoskeletal conditions. Methods: A search of the literature was conducted during the Fall of 2017 which included the following electronic databases: PubMed, CINAHL, MEDLINE, PEDro, and SPORTDiscus. The search terms included individual or a combination of the following: instrument; assisted; augmented; soft-tissue; mobilization; Graston; and technique.
Results: A total of 5 randomized controlled trials and 1 controlled clinical trial were included. The Graston technique was reported as being the specific technique utilized in all studies. Five of the 6 studies compared IASTM to a non-IASTM group. All 5 of these studies demonstrated a statistically and clinically significant (p<0.05) reduction in pain within the IASTM groups. Four of the 6 studies demonstrated a statistically significant (p<0.05) difference between groups.
Conclusion: The literature surrounding the efficacy of IASTM for musculoskeletal pain is evolving. Due to the paucity and heterogeneity of studies included, in addition to a lack of methodological consistency, it is difficult to make clinical recommendations with respect to optimal IASTM protocols. However, the results of this review indicate that most included studies of IASTM appears to demonstrate clinically meaningful change with respect to pain intensity for musculoskeletal conditions.
Author keywords: Soft Tissue; Rehabilitation; Physical Therapy
Author affiliations: AK, AW: Resident of the Royal College of Chiropractic Sports Sciences (Canada); KS: Division of Graduate Education and Research, Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College
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