IASTM History

Because sports injuries reduce soft tissue function and increase pain, they can have a negative impact on maintaining one’s optimal conditioning. Therefore, rehabilitation after a sports injury is critical, and several interventions have been proposed to help the process of healing. These include electroacupuncture, extracorporeal shockwave therapy, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, laser therapy, prolotherapy, and whole-body cryotherapy. However, some of these methods require expensive equipment and their effectiveness is still being debated.

In ancient Greece and Rome, a small metallic instrument known as a “strigil” was used in bathhouses for therapeutic purposes, and such an instrument has led to today’s IASTM. Another origin of IASTM is a traditional Chinese therapy known as “gua sha”. The word “gua sha” refers to the red spot that appears on the skin when an instrument is used to push or scrape the skin, increasing the blood flow to facilitate the supply of blood and oxygen to the soft tissues. IASTM is based on these principles and it is a technique that is a modified version of traditional soft tissue mobilization, such as “gua sha.” IASTM includes augmented soft tissue mobilization, fascial abrasion technique, NordBlade S.T.M. technique, and sound-assisted soft tissue mobilization, with different names referring to the different material or shape of the instrument used. While rocks, wooden sticks, and animal bones may have been used historically to apply a stimulus to the skin, various instruments made primarily of stainless steel are used today.

IASTM is a simple and practical technique. Because the surface of the instrument minimizes the force used by the practitioner, but maximizes the force delivered to the tissues, it is possible to stimulate points of adhesion located in deep areas. Discomfort and fatigue experienced by therapists who treated patients with IASTM were significantly lower than the levels in therapists treating their patients using the metal end of a reflex hammer. Moreover, IASTM has another advantage of being able to produce positive effects in a much shorter period than friction massage, another mode of soft tissue therapy, which requires 15–20 min. Currently, IASTM is included in the curriculum of physical therapy and chiropractic in some American\Europian colleges, while its use in the fields of rehabilitation and athlete rahab\training is also increasing.


This is a small excerpt of Jooyoung Kim, Dong Jun Sung and Joohyung Lee study “Therapeutic effectiveness of instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization for soft tissue injury: mechanisms and practical application.”, you can find the full text by clicking on the link: