Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Massage (IASTM)

A Treatment Technique Offered by Kensington Physio & Sports Medicine

It was several of my clients who asked me to write an article on Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Massage  or IASTM, as they felt more people should be aware of its benefits. I’ll briefly discuss my experience and include feedback from clients on the background to IASTM, how it works, where it can be used and what effects you can expect.

This concept was developed over 3000 years ago to facilitate soft tissue technique delivery. It has been developed over the years and is most commonly used in America as the Graston Technique. A tool was developed here in the UK last year and is known as the “Kinnective”. I was sceptical when I heard about it. Nevertheless I wanted to experience it for myself having had English Institute of Sport Physiotherapists and GB athlete feedback reporting a quicker return to activities using IASTM, in combination with other treatments, by enhancing healing of dysfunctional tissues (Holtz al., 2011, McCormack 2012). My concern was that I would not be able to feel the body tissue as well I did with my hands. I was amazed. I gained increased sensation and feedback, along with improved results and less client discomfort. The tool is stainless steel and is designed to maximise feedback for the therapist. Functionally, all of the different edges can be utilised for different areas of the body and can be matched to suit the individual. The tool can be used to treat different soft tissue structures in the body. Soft tissue adapts according to how we move, or don’t move and can be hindered by adhesions (similar to areas of scar tissue left after a wound but these are inside the body). For simplicity we will divide these soft tissues into two: contractile, elastic tissue which is muscle and non-contractile plastic connective tissue such as tissue encasing muscles, fat and under the skin.

• Contractile: A contracted muscle is shorter than a relaxed muscle and this contracted state can remain after trauma, injury or intense and repetitive work/training/postures. Why is it important to restore the length of the muscle? The best comparison is to consider a balloon. When starting to blow up a balloon it is difficult, it then becomes easier and finally when the balloon is nearly full it becomes harder again. This is how a muscle works. It finds it difficult when shortened and when lengthened; it works optimally in the middle position.

• Non-contractile: These tissues are very dense and strong. They are able to stretch gently. They are more liable to damage than muscles when under tension. These structures are more like pushing your finger into clingfilm. If you put it under gentle tension then it will stretch but if the tension if excessive then the clingfilm will become more deformed.

Using IASTM in different ways it is possible to stimulate the body to promote healing, make new soft tissue and decrease the sensitivity of the area (Gehlsen 1999). Combined with other physiotherapy treatments it may also help to decrease the number of physiotherapy sessions required to gain recovery (Wilson et al. 2000).  Research in the US has shown extremely favourable results with 89% or more in people reporting improvements in doing their activities in either 8 or 9 treatment sessions. This was for nearly 9000 people who had experienced conditions from a minor muscle strain or repetitive stress injury to arthritis or surgery.

In conclusion, IASTM is a treatment technique offered by myself and other physios at Kenphysio which helps to promote healing and restore soft tissue structures. As one of my client’s reports:

“Although it (IASTM) can feel quite strange during treatment, the feeling after the treatment is amazing. In certain areas it seems to just pick up and release tight spots and is excellent for the more specific areas that other soft tissue techniques can’t quite break down”

The technique is utilised by several of our clinicians at Kensington Physio & Sports Medicine across all the clinics – if it is something of interest then please ask.

Keep moving!


Senior Physiotherapist



  1. Holtz et al. (2011) The Edge. “A Conservative Manual Therapy Approach Using IASTM for the Treatment of Bilateral Plantar Fasciitis”. Graston Technique.
  2. Personal communication with Mr Lewis Moses, GB Athlete (2013)
  3. ASTYM (2013) “1996-2013 Outcome Reports”
  4. Wilson JK, Sevier TL, Helfst RH, Honing EW, Thomann AL. Comparison of rehabilitation
  5. Methods in the treatment of patellar tendinitis. Journal of Sports Rehabilitation. 2000;9(4):304-314.
  6. Gehlsen GM, Ganion LR, Helfst R. Fibroblast responses to variation in soft tissue mobilization pressure. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 1999;31(4):531-535.
  7. The Management of Mid-portion achilles tendinopathy with ASTYM and eccentric exercise: A case report. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2012 December; 7(6): 672–677. Joshua R. McCormack, MPT, OCS1,2


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