2 Myths of IASTM | Modern Manual Therapy Blog

2 Myths of IASTM


I have been steadily transitioning the way I use IASTM and Functional Release over the past two years. As a result, not only have my outcomes improved, but my patients have little to no soreness between treatments. That is a big change.

Ten years ago, I used to teach being "appropriate aggressive." Based on a mechanical fascial deformation model, I learned from Paris to the Institute of Physical Art that the forces we used to make rapid changes during tissue work were due to mechanical changes. I also taught the stress/strain curve, pushing the tissues until you hit the plastic range so changes could be made.

Don't get me wrong, I still helped patients, but I routinely bruised them. They still got better, and I always explained from day one that it was not uncommon to be sore and discolored. Tim Flynn told me a few years ago that I was being too rough in my videos, so I started going lighter and lighter and to my surprise, patients ROM, pain, and function still improved. In many cases, just as well or even better.

image courtesy of gritgutsandglory.wordpress.com
does this look "ok" to you?


Myth 1 - STM Deforms Fascia

The way I look at it now, I don't know what the hell I was thinking when I included this as part of my informed consent. This article by Chaudry, et al basically shows it takes extremely large forces (more than 100 lbs) to even produce 1% deformation. This is hardly the amount of deformation that would be required to see the rapid changes in ROM we often see when doing manual tissue work.

Myth 2 - Creep or Fascial Deformation is Desirable with Manual Therapy

Even early research from 1992 showed that much longer duration was needed for fascial deformation. Longer than what we would be able to treat, or that a patient would be willing to endure. So how do we explain these changes that we can feel through our hands or our tools? The changes are tone reduction through activation of receptors like Pacini and Ruffini corpuscles. They communicate pressure to the CNS which in turn reduces tone in the area (and adjacent areas) you are working on. These concepts are covered much further here. If you stop and think about it, do you really want to cause trauma to something like an ITB just to have a patient's knee or hip feel "better?"

A simple study also showed that massage of the peroneals affected the TFL and the brachioradialis affected the anterior deltoid. This also explains how when we work on patterns or what others call lines, we are able to make global changes.

These articles are from researchers that are very well known in the Body Worker and Massage circles, but not the Peer Reviewed Manual PT or PT circles. I am glad I was exposed to them, and I'm sure all of my patients are as well.

In the end, you can still make rapid changes with either STM or IASTM and there are still advantages to using tools over your hands. In two days, look for part 2 of this post for 2 Advantages of IASTM.

1 comment:

  1. Dr. E,

    Thanks for taking the time for our previous discussion...

    I was wondering if you have any information on specifically targeting Ruffini's endings with manual therapy. This is a specific interest that I have. I have been a reference to Melzack's text "Challenge Pain" by another PT. Melzack mentions that Ruffini's endings run parallel to Langer skin lines and require just 1/5 of a millimeter of lateral skin stretch to activate. Ruffini endings are also non-nociceptive.

    I was wondering if you have other references or info on Ruffini's endings. I follow Gregg Johnson's model of mobilizing the skin first. I have also gone lighter and lighter and feel that may be all a patient needs in terms of manual therapy.

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