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5 Ways to Get More Out of Self Myofascial Release

With the popularity of self myofascial release skyrocketing over the last decade, we’re seeing people rolling all over the place.  And for good reason…

Foam rolling helps you feel and move better.

Foam rollers are great, and I have talked about other self myofascial release tools that I highly recommend you try.  But it’s not always just about WHAT you are using to roll out, it’s also about HOW you are performing self myofascial release that is important.

If you combine some of our basic understanding of functional anatomy with our understanding of movement, we can really enhance how you perform self myofascial release to get even better results.

5 Ways to Get More Out of Self Myofascial release

To illustrate this concept, I wanted to share 5 videos demonstrating how you can enhance how you perform self myofascial release.

Reduce the Surface Area

My first video discusses the concept of reducing the surface area while rolling.  Again, foam rollers are great.  But depending on the tissue you are focusing on when rolling, you may want to reduce the surface area.

When you get used to foam rolling and are looking for a deeper sensation, putting the same amount of body weight on a smaller surface area will obviously increase the applied pressure.

This is also helpful when you are foam rolling an area that is hard to place full body weight on the roller, like the calf, as you will be able to apply more pressure.

 

Roll in 360 Degrees

In the next video, I discuss the ability to use a mobility sphere to be apply to easily alter the direction of rolling, instead of just back and forth using a foam roller.  This is one of my favorite progressions.

 

Hold a Spot

Often times when rolling, you’ll find one spot that is really tender.

Once you find a tender spot, combine our treatment technique of sustained pressure on the area.  Stop rolling and hold pressure on that spot for 10-30 seconds.  The goal is not to crush the spot, but rather to gentle hold and increase pressure as the tenderness subsides.

You’ll be surprise how the spot will decrease in tenderness after holding the spot.

 

Add Active Motion

The next variation is also a simulation of our treatment techniques, this time a pin and stretch.  Again, when you find a tender spot, hold it for a duration, then add some active motion of that muscle group.

Focus on slowly moving the muscle through full range of motion while sustain pressure.

Move Another Muscle

On a similar note, you can also pin one muscle and stretch an adjacent muscle.  The example I use in the video below is the hamstring and adductor group.  You can pin the adductor and slowly flex and extend the knee to move the hamstring.

 

These examples are just 5 of the many ways we enhance self myofascial release with our patients and clients at Champion.  I’d love to hear what you do as well.  By combining some of our treatment concepts, we think you can really get a lot more out of your self myofascial release.

If you like this type of content, be sure to follow me on Instagram and Facebook, I’ve been sharing a lot of videos like this:

 

2 New Self Myofascial Release Tools to Try

In my recent article on the best self myofascial release tools, I overviewed a variety of tools that people can use based on their goals and needs.

I mentioned a couple of newer self myofascial release tools that I have started using instead of a simple foam roller.  I still like foam rollers, but think that many people could benefit even more by upgrading to these newer tools.

A lot of people have been asking me about these newer tools, so I wanted to film a couple of videos showing you more.

 


Acumobility Eclipse Foam Roller and Mobility Ball

 


Mobilitas Mobility Sphere

 


Try these two new products and I think you’ll be impressed.  And be sure to check out my other recommendations of foam rollers, massage sticks, and other mobility tools.

 

 

 

The Best Self Myofascial Release Tools

Self myofascial release tools, such as foam rollers, trigger point balls, and massage sticks, have become some of the most popular tools used for corrective exercises, fitness, and sports performance.  In fact, performing self myofascial release has become almost a uniform component in the majority of fitness and sports performance programs.

You can certainly argue the exact physiological benefit of performing self myofascial release.  Ironically we are likely not really “releasing” fascia.  

However, it’s hard to argue the benefits of self myofascial release.

Two recent studies in International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy and Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapy have been published that analyzed the current state of research and conclude that self myofascial release:

  • Increases mobility and joint range of motion
  • Reduces post-workout soreness and DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness)
  • Allows for greater workout performance in future workouts
  • May lead to improved vascular function and parasympathetic nervous system function

“Simply put, self myofascial release has been proven to help you feel and move better.” [click to tweet]

In order to get started, I wanted to share my years of experience with self myofascial release tools.  There are so many foam rollers, trigger point tools, and massage sticks out there these days.  
I’ve tried nearly all of them and these are what I consider the best self myofascial release tools.

Best Self Myofascial Release Tools

Over the years I have tried a ridiculous amount of different self myofascial release tools, some great, some awful, and some just a rip off.  Luckily, new products emerge all the time and continue to improve.

I’ve learned a couple of things that are important:

  • There are different types of self myofascial release tools for different needs, body parts, and intensities.  Building your own “kit” is probably going to be the most effective.  Trying to use just a foam roller on everything is going to not work well.
  • You tend to build up a tolerance to self myofascial release and want to upgrade to more advanced foam rollers, trigger point balls, and massage sticks.  Start with the basics and advance overtime.

Best Foam Rollers

Amazon Basics High-Density Round Foam Rollerself myofascial release - amazon foam roller

The first place to is a basic high density foam roller.  This could be the cheapest and most versatile tool you get.  Amazon has started to make their own version, which is a great price.  You’ll find various sizes.  I’ve never personally gotten much use of the large 36-inch versions and tend to favor the 18-inch version.

TriggerPoint GRID Foam Rollerself myofascial release - grid foam roller

The basic high density foam roller is a great place to start to get used to foam rolling, but quickly gets pretty easy.  You’ll want to upgrade to a more firm foam roller in increase the intensity.  My preferred choice is the GRID foam roller from TriggerPoint.  I’ve been using this foam roller for years with continued success.  It has a rigid hollow core that increases the intensity very well.  This is worth the extra investment as it will likely be your main foam roller for some time.

Mobilitas Mobility Sphere
self myofascial release - mobility sphere foam roller

Somewhere between a foam roller and a trigger point ball, I actually really like using 5” mobility balls.  Because of the round shape, the contact area is smaller so the amount of force to the area is larger.  Plus, you can use into in multiple planes of motion because it is a ball instead of a roller.  This is something I personally use.  You can get into smaller areas, like your chest, but I use this just as much as a standard foam roller.  There are a few but the one I use and recommend is the Mobilitas Mobility Sphere.

Acumobility Eclipse Foam Rollerself myofascial release - acumobility foam roller

I was recently turned onto the Eclipse Foam Roller from Acumobility and have been impressed.  I was intrigued by the design and wanted to try it myself.  I’m not a big fan of foam rollers with ridges, as I just feel they don’t do much and concept is more of a marketing gimmick.  But Acumobility has a made a great advanced foam roller that includes a firm middle section that can encompass a body part really well.  It’s a really unique design and a great tool for advanced foam rolling.

Best Massage Roller Stick

While foam rollers are the primary self myofascial release tool for most needs, there are body parts that simply don’t do as well and need a massage stick tool.  The next tool you should add to your self myofascial release tool kit is a massager stick roller.  There are a few popular massage sticks on the market, and as it is with most things, I actually don’t prefer the two most popular massage sticks.

TheraBand Roller Massager+self myofascial release - theraband massage stick roller

The original massage stick began with plastic pieces and did a fairly well job, but newer tools have used a more grippy surface that I feel is far more effective. A plastic roller is just placing pressure downward on the tissue, where the grip on the TheraBand Roller Massager+ seems to also create a tissue traction with the friction produced.  This is a great product for areas like the forearms and feet, but also areas where you want to apply more pressure than what you can with just body weight, like the quads, hamstrings, and calves.  Plus, this has been the massage roller featured in many of the research reports.

Best Trigger Point Release Tools

In addition to foam rollers and massage sticks.  Trigger point release tools are another must have addition to your self myofascial release tool kit.  Essentially, these just tend to be smaller self myofascial release tools that can get into tighter areas.

Lacrosse Ballself myofascial release - lacrosse ball trigger point tool

Yup, that’s it, just a lacrosse ball.  People have tried to make better versions of trigger point balls, but nothing beats the affordable lacrosse ball.  Great material, density, and durability.  This is a great place to start.  Get a couple so you can use two at once one places like your spine.

Acumobility Mobility Ballself myofascial release - acumobility ball trigger point tool

Acumobility, the maker of the Eclipse Roller above, has another great tool, their Mobility Ball.  This is made from a great dense material, but has a flat bottom that allows you to keep this in one spot on the floor or even against the wall.  This really helps to provide firm pressure while performing movements of the muscle group.  This is a great upgrade from the lacrosse ball.

Trigger Point Wandself myofascial release - trigger point wand

Sometimes an area is hard to reach, such as your neck or back.  That’s where sometimes a trigger point wand comes in handy.  I would definitely consider this a speciality tool, however a very popular choice.

Foot Rubz Massage Ballself myofascial release - foot rubz massage ball

Another speciality tool, but something that I wanted to include as I really love, is the hand and foot massage ball from Foot Rubz.  This is a smaller trigger point ball perfect for the hands and feet.  You can use a lacrosse ball or even the TheraBand Massage Roller above for these areas, but I feel this is slightly better and worth it for many.  (I’m literally using one as I type this haha…)

Create Your Own Self Myofascial Release Tool Kit

All of the above options are great choices.  I would recommend getting one of each of the foam rollers, massage sticks, and trigger point tools.  Together, these cover pretty much all of your self myofascial release needs.

If you are interested, I also have an Inner Circle webinar on how I perform self myofascial release.

 

 

How I Use Muscle Energy Techniques

Muscle Energy Techniques

The latest webinar recording for Inner Circle members is now available below.

Muscle Energy Techniques

This month’s Inner Circle webinars shifted gears a little bit.  Rather than talk about a specific injury or treatment focus, we discussed a general technique, muscle energy techniques.  I liked this approach as I think there are a lot of immediate clinical implications that will allow you to start using muscle energy techniques right away.  Here is just a few of the things we covered:

  • The history and background of muscle energy techniques from both the physical therapy and osteopathic fields
  • The effects and efficacy of muscle energy techniques
  • A review of some of the various different methods of using muscle energy techniques
  • How I use muscle energy techniques to increase motion, decrease guarding, reduce hypertonicity, perform joint mobilizations, and teach self-stretches
  • How you can start integrating muscle energy techniques into your current skill set.

 

To access the webinar, please be sure you are logged in and are a member of the Inner Circle program.

Frontal Plane Stability, Soft Tissue Duration, and Cash Based Practice

This week’s stuff you should read comes from Chris Johnson, Patrick Ward, and Jarod Carter.

 

Inner Circle Update

This month’s Inner Circle webinar is actually happening later today!  We will be talking about how I integrate science and evidence into exercise selection.  I love topics like this and feel that little tweaks to exercise can you make you look like a rock star.

Inner Circle members can head over to the dashboard to sign up for the webinar.  I’ll get a recording of the video posted ASAP afterward as well.  Click here to learn more and join the program.

 

RehabWebinars.com Update

There were a few new webinars added to RehabWebinars.com this week!  We have a ton more coming too.  Here is what was new this week:

  • Part 2 of Kevin Wilk’s Current Concepts in ACL Rehabilitation covering several concepts of biomechanics, exercise, and neuromuscular training during the intermediate phase of rehabilitation from week 2 to week 10.
  • Peripheral Neuropathies by Dr. Mike Ellerbusch, who I have collaborated with in past EMG studies
  • Surgical Options for Knee Arthritis in Young Athletes by Dr. Lyle Cain.

And also working on a ton more webinars including kinesiology taping, integrating neuroscience, and more strength and fitness webinars.

 

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Frontal Plane Stability Drill

Chris Johnson shows a nice video of a frontal plane stability drill he uses in runners.  I like the thought and emphasis on the stability of the leg on the ground and the core.  Notice how well Chris performs the exercise and doesn’t allow a hip hike o r

 

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Cash Based Practice Advice 

Jarod Carter includes a nice video of his speech to a group of physical therapy students about cash-based practice.  Nice message and Q&A session.

 

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How Long Should We Spend on Soft Tissue

Patrick Ward answers a question he received regarding how much time we should spend on soft tissue.  To summarize, as long as we need to produce the desired effect!  But how many times in a crazy outpatient setting do we get rushed?

 

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Self Myofascial Release for the Forearm

I wanted to show a quick video of a technique I use for self-myofascial release of the forearm.  Obviously, this is a hard area to get with a foam roll and some of the techniques I have seen using the various trigger point balls don’t seem to apply enough pressure for me.  Here is a quick clip demonstrating:

 

The video uses the new Thera-Band Roller Massager+.  Obviously you can use you stick of choice, like the original Massage Stick or Tiger Tail, however I must admit that the Thera-Band stick is my current go-to massage stick device.  I was a little skeptical at first about the ridges, thinking it was just a way to differentiate itself from the competition, but it really does feel better than the other sticks.  The rubber surface with the ridges makes for a nice combination of compression and superficial drag.

 

Self Myofascial Release for the Forearm

In the video above you’ll notice a few things:

  • I position the stick at an ~45 degree angle and really wedge it into a firm surface.  This gives me a nice rigid platform to roll on.
  • I use this just like a foam roll.  I start with simply rolling back and forth the length of the muscle groups, then stop on any trigger points that I find and hold for a sustained released, then I progress to include multidirection movements that include fascial release techniques.
  • For the flexor and pronator group, I start with the wrist flexed and pronated and as I roll I extend and supinate.
  • This is reverse for the extensor and supinator group, I start with the wrist extended and supinated and as I roll I flex and pronate

This is a great warm-up for the forearm and also a great technique to include in home exercise programs for those with injuries such as medial epicondylitis and lateral epicondylitis.  Try it and let me know what you think about this or if you have any other self-myofascial release techniques for the forearm that you find to be helpful.

Thoracolumbar Fascia – An Area Rich with Activity

Today’s guest post is about the thoracolumbar fascia from Patrick Ward.  I have been reading Patrick’s website for a while now and have always been impressed his content, but he also has the ability to write and communicate in a fashion that fosters thought and learning.  I have been talking with him for months about sending me a guest post, so I am happy to finally have one, thanks Patrick!

Thoracolumbar fascia: An area rich with activity 

The thoracolumbar fascia can be thought of as a transitional area between the lower extremity and the upper extremity where forces are transferred in athletic and sporting movement.  For this reason, the thoracolumbar fascia plays an integral role in the movement system of the body as it connects many joint systems – hips, pelvis, lumbar spine, and thoracic spine.   Also, considering that the latissimus dorsi has attachments onto the thoracolumbar fascia and inserts onto the lesser tubercle of the humerus, the glenohumeral joint can also be thought of as ‘connected’ with the thoracolumbar fascia.  Additionally, the cervical fascia and the thoracolumbar fascia are continuous, so this fascial structures effect can be seen into the cervical and potentially even the cranial regions.

For this reason, the thoracolumbar fascia can be an important area for treatment both in instances of injury/pathology or when developing a recovery/regeneration treatment protocol for certain athletes.

 

Three layers of Thoracolumbar Fascia

Thoracolumbar FasciaThe thoracolumbar fascia can be thought of as having three layers which help to separate the muscles in this region into compartments:

  • Anterior layer – Attaching to the anterior aspect of the lumbar transverse processes and the anterior surface of the quadratus lumborum.
  • Middle layer – Attaching to the medial tip of the transverse processes and giving rise to the transverse abdominus
  • Posterior layer – Covering all of the muscles from the lumbosacral region through the thoracic region as far up as the splenii attachments.  Additionally, this posterior layer attaches to both the erector spinae and gluteus maximus aponeurosis.  It is in this posterior layer that the gluteus maximus and contralateral latissimus dorsi attach with each other and coordinate together to allow for pendulum like movements between the upper and lower extremity that make walking and running possible.

 

Together, the muscles that connect into the three layers of the thoracolumbar fascia help to provide both a stabilizing and biomechanical role for the body.  Additionally, the vast amount of mechanoreceptors in this region hint to the importance of the thoracolumbar fascia’s sensory role, making it a potentially rich target for hands on therapy.

Photo from Wikipedia

 

A Stabilizing Role 

The transverse abdominus, internal oblique, and quadratus lumborum all invest themselves into portions of the thoracolumbar fascia.  According to Neumann (2010), the transverse abdominus provides anticipatory/feed-forward stabilization of the lumbo-pelvic region via a tensioning of the thoracolumbar fascia and an increase in intrabdominal pressure.  The connection that the thoracolumbar fascia has with the posterior ligaments of the lumbar spine allows it to assist in supporting the vertebral column when it is flexed by developing fascial tension that helps control the abdominal wall (Gracovetsky, 1981) and it may also provide some sensory function to the body aid in both postural and protective reflex activity (Yahia, et al., 1992).

The biomechanical role of the thoracolumbar fascia is generally understood by individuals in the strength and conditioning and rehabilitation professions.  Exercise programs or “core training” programs are typically designed to elicit some sort of stabilization activity to the muscles in this region.  However, insight into the myofibroblasts and mechanoreceptors of the thoracolumbar fascia may require us to look a bit deeper if we wish to make larger changes to the function of the human body.

 

Myofibroblasts

Myofibroblasts are cells that have a sort of dual function, being part fibroblast and part smooth muscle.  It is because of these smooth muscle properties that the myofibroblasts can contract on their own – like other smooth muscles cells – placing them under the control of the autonomic nervous system and allowing the autonomic nervous system to potentially regulate fascial pre-tension independently of muscular tone.  Thus, the fascial system is an adapting organ which almost has a “life of its own.” 

Schleip and colleagues (2006) showed that the lumbar fascia, via its myofibroblasts, has the ability to contract in situations of either chronic tissue contractures, such as tissue remodeling, or during more smooth muscle-like contractions, which may help to influence low-back stability.  Furthermore, Yahia et al. (1993) showed that the thoracolumbar fascia had the ability to spontaneously contract when the tissue was stretched and held at a constant length repeatedly, causing the fascia to slowly begin to increase resistance.  This information could be potentially beneficial in understanding pathologies where increased myofascial stiffness is present.  However, influencing the system to make a change in this stiffness is a more difficult question.

 

Does it Come Back to Breathing?

Given the smooth muscle properties and the control that the autonomic nervous system may have over the fascial network, perhaps a potential window into effectively dealing with increased myofascial tone can circle around to breathing.

Respiratory function is on aspect of the autonomic nervous system that we actually have direct control over.  We can change our breathing and help to elicit a parasympathetic response to allow for greater relaxation and potentially less overall tissue tone/tension, hopefully leading to more of a comfortable state of being a decreased threat perception.  Additionally, the role of the diaphragm in stabilizing the lumbar region cannot be overlooked and the fact that it shares a fascial connection with the quadratus lumborum (as well as the psoas major) and the transverse abdominus fibers invest themselves into part of the diaphragm means that the diaphragm is in a potentially prime position to have an influence over the thoracolumbar fascia, since both of these muscles invest into layers of that fascial structure.

 

Manual Therapy of the Thoracolumbar Fascia

The thoracolumbar fascia is richly innervated with mechanoreceptors providing it with a strong sensory role and making it a target for manual therapy.

There are many ways to address the body with manual/touch therapy.  The idea of treating “fascia” has been a hot topic as of late and oftentimes therapists are doing similar things however explaining them in different ways, leading to large semantics debates.  With regard to treating fascia I believe that it is important to not leave out the nervous system, as the goal of any manual hands on treatment is to somehow effect the brain to create an environment that is ripe for healing – one which decreases overall threat perception, decreases fear avoidance, and opens a window for the individual to perform some sort of non-painful movement that increases confidence, and create relaxation (again, helping to achieve a parasympathetic response).

Several types of receptors have been found in connective tissue (not just the thoracolumbar fascia) such as pacini and paciniform corpuscles, ruffini organs, interstitial receptors, and golgi receptors.  Different receptors are responsive to different sorts of techniques and forms of therapy.  For example, pacini receptors are responsive to pressure changes and vibrations, while ruffini receptors are responsive to sustained pressure and tangential forces such as a lateral stretch.

 

Practical Applications

The thoracolumbar fascia plays an important role in human movement as it not only serves as an attachment site for numerous muscles in the lumbar, thoracic, and sacral regions, but also is an important area of transition between the upper and lower extremities where forces are transferred to allow for coordinated function.

Understanding the implications that the thoracolumbar fascia has over the body will help therapists to develop both exercise programs and manual therapy/hands on treatment programs for either rehabilitation or recovery (to help increase relaxation in this area between competitions and prevent overuse or excessive strain which is common in sport).

The smooth muscle properties of the thoracolumbar fascia (and all fascia of the body) indicate a potential role of the autonomic nervous system in regulating fascial tone.  For this reason, understanding the individual athlete and levels of stress as well as their individual stress resistance can be helpful in managing overall fascial tension.  The pH of the body plays an important role in fascial tension, as greater levels of alkalinity create vasoconstriction and increased muscle tone.  The pH of the body can be influenced by increased levels of threat and changes in breathing, which cause alterations in expired CO2.  Thus, breathing, relaxation, and/or meditation, may be potential ways in which the fascial system can be influenced in a training or therapy session.  Managing stress using a variety of recovery modalities in between competitions can be help to keep athletes healthy and performing well.

Finally, the high number of mechanoreceptors found in the thoracolumbar fascia (and in all fascia) indicate that the fascial system provides an important sensory role for the body.  Various manual/hands on therapies can be utilized to influence the sensory system (and the brain) to help decrease tone/tension, improve proprioception and awareness to the area being treated, decrease threat perception, increase relaxation, and provide a window into the parasympathetic nervous system which can potentially create an optimal environment for healing.

Taking all of this into consideration, when assessing an athlete it is important to look at the entire body and keep in mind that the thoracolumbar fascia shares a connection with many structures and its influence can be seen as far up as the cervical region and into the extremities.  With that in mind the thoracolumbar fascia may be a potential area for therapy when attempting to influence other parts of the body.

 

About the Author

Patrick WardPatrick Ward, MS, CSCS, LMT is a certified strength and conditioning specialist and licensed massage therapist.  He owns Optimum Sports Performance (www.optimumsportsperformance.com), a sports conditioning and soft tissue therapy company which provides training, treatment, and consulting to professional, amateur, and high school athletes.  He writes excellent articles on his website OptimumSportsPerformance.com.

 

References

  • Chaitow L, Delany J. Clinical Application of Neuromuscular Techniques – Volume 2: The Lower Body. Churchill Livingstone. Philadelphia, PA. 2002.
  • Benjamin M.  The fascia of the limbs and back – a review. Journal of Anatomy 2009; 214: 1-18.
  • Neumann D. Kinesiology of the hip: A focus on muscular actions. J Ortho Spors Phys Thera 2010; 40(2): 82-94.
  • Schleip R, Klinger W, Lehmann-Horn F. Fascia is able to contract in a smooth muscle-like manner and therby influence musculoskeletal mechanics. Proceedings of the 5th World Congress of Biomechanics, Munich, Germany. 2006. 51-54.
  • Hammer WI. Functional Soft-Tissue Examination and Treatment by Manual Methods. Jones and Bartlett Publishers. Sudbury, MA.  2007.
  • Schleip R. Fascial Plasticity: A new neurobiological explanation part 1. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies 2003; 7(1): 11-19.
  • Schleip R. Fascial Plasticity: A new neurobiological explanation part 2. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies 2003; 7(2): 104-116.
  • Yahia L, et al. Sensory  innervation of human thoracolumbar fascia: An immunohistochemical study. Acta Orthop Scand 1992; 63(2): 195-197.
  • Hoheisel U, et al. Nociceptive input from the rat thoracolumbar fascia to lumbar dorsal horn neurones. Euro J Pain 2011; 15: 810-815.

Graston Technique: A Case Study and Other Thoughts on Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization Techniques

UPDATE: There is a new article that discusses my current recommendations for the best IASTM tool.  This newer article contains my updated recommendation for several Graston alternatives and information on my online educational programming teaching you how to use IASTM

 

Today’s guest post is quick overview of the Graston IASTM technique and it’s application within a case study by Eric Schoenberg, MSPT, CSCS.  I thought Eric did a great job with the post and have will share some of my thoughts on instrument assisted soft tissue techniques, such as Graston technique, at the end of this article.

IASTM Technique

graston techniqueRegardless of treatment philosophy, it is difficult to dispute the importance of soft tissue work to help treat pathology, correct muscle imbalance, decrease recovery time, and restore proper muscle recruitment and firing patterns.

While there are many available soft tissue options, in my practice, I have found IASTM techniques to be particularly useful in both treatment and evaluation.  Many people don’t realize that the IASTM technique can also be a valuable diagnostic tool to quickly “scan” or evaluate a patient’s soft tissue quality and determine its contribution to a patient’s current symptoms or injury risk factor.

The IASTM technique concept is grounded in the works of English orthopedist James Cyriax and the concept of cross fiber treatment. The treatment edge of the IASTM instruments allows for improved precision in the treatment of fascial restriction and fibrotic/scar tissue.

I wanted to share my experience and techniques with the IASTM technique and will use a case study to illustrate the benefits and specificity of the IASTM Technique.

The patient is an 18 year old male who is a 3-sport athlete (football, basketball, baseball) presenting with 9 month history of anterior knee pain consistent with patellar tendinosis. The patient presents with the following objective findings at evaluation:

  • Point tenderness at inferior pole of patella
  • Pain at end-range supine and prone knee flexion
  • Pain with resisted concentric and eccentric knee extension (Kendall MMT position)
  • Decreased hip mobility B
  • Decreased ankle DF ROM B
  • Decreased lumbopelvic/hip and single leg stability
  • Decreased gluteal/core strength B

The patient is participating in pre-season football conditioning with emphasis on sagittal plane squat/split squat/lunge activities, sprinting (including hills), and plyometrics (sagittal plane). He is using foam roller daily on own to improve tissue quality. His symptoms are gradually worsening with increased training intensity.

After evaluating the patient, I decided to include IASTM technique treatment focused on the quadriceps, ITB, adductors, hamstring, gastroc/soleus, and tibialis anterior muscle groups.  Here are a couple of examples:

IASTM Technique – Seated Quadciceps

IASTM Technique – Seated Patellar Tendon

One specific application of IASTM technique is the ability to effectively treat the injured area in positions of provocation. This patient experiences symptom reproduction in the split squat/forward lunge position:

IASTM Technique – 1/2 Kneel Position

IASTM Technique – Dynamic With Squat:

Treatment Outcomes

The patient was seen for 3 treatments with full resolution of symptoms. Treatments consisted of the following:

  1. 1. Tissue quality: IASTM technique, daily lower body foam roller program
  2. 2. Mobility: hip and ankle mobility exercises, active warm-up corrective exercises
  3. 3. Multiplanar strength: frontal and transverse plane strength (emphasized single leg activity, band walks, lateral lunges, lumbopelvic stability- chops/lifts)
  4. 4. Activity Modification: patient educated in proper jump/land technique, limited sagittal plane repetitions, proper muscle firing patterns

Clinical Observations From Using the IASTM Technique:

1. The specificity of the treatment edge and the ability to provide uniform pressure is what sets the technique apart from other manual approaches.

2. The instruments truly enhance the clinician’s ability to detect and treat fascial restrictions and adhesions (particularly effective in positions of provocation).

3. Incorporating stretching and strengthening (tendon-loading) exercises with the instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization is the key to promoting re-alignment of the fibers and helping to fully remodel the injured tissue.

4. Coupling IASTM in the clinical setting with self myofascial release (SMR) products, such as foam rollers and other similar equipment at home or in an athletic setting (pre/post activity) is an ideal way to achieve maximum success.

Lastly, at least for me, the most exciting part of using IASTM Technique in the clinical setting is feeling better suited to treat the more difficult diagnoses (plantar fasciitis, chronic tendonosis, etc) with the expectation of good clinical outcomes.

 

My goal in writing this article is to present a simple case to allow the reader to appreciate the functionality and ease of use of the IASTM Technique. In addition, it is important to note that IASTM (along with any soft tissue treatment) should be used in conjunction with skilled movement evaluation and prescription of corrective exercise to allow for the most effective clinical outcomes.

Eric Schoenberg, MSPT, CSCS is co-owner of Momentum Physical Therapy with offices in Milford, MA and Wellesley, MA.  The owners of Momentum PT are experts in the human movement system. Their mission is to bridge the gap between traditional medicine and fitness with emphasis on patient education and injury prevention.  Visit eric’s blog at www.momentumptblog.blogspot.com.

 

Mike’s Thoughts

UPDATE: There is a new article that discusses my current recommendations for the best IASTM tool.  This newer article contains my updated recommendation for several Graston alternatives and information on my online educational programming teaching you how to use IASTM.

 

Eric, great article and examples of use of the IASTM technique.  I’m sure the patient got better from your very well thought out treatment plan and all of the techniques and exercises you performed in combination with IASTM technique.

It is important to note that while this article is specifically about the Graston technique, it also applies to instrumented assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) techniques in general.  Late last year I polled my readers and 20% of you said you used IASTM, including Graston technique, SASTM, and ASTYM.  We could also group in the traditional Gua Sha to this mix as well.

I have used these techniques and do incorporate IASTM in my practice, I have also taken the basic Graston class (though have not taken SASTM and ASYTM classes and have not used their tools).  Here are my thoughts:

  • IASTM is a valuable component of my treatments, but just a component.  Just like everything else, it has its value and it has areas where I would choose another technique.
  • There are a lot of misconceptions here and the internet makes this worse – a huge black and blue down the leg is not what you are trying to achieve using IASTM.  I consider this a sign that you’ve done too much.  This is a misconception.
  • The actual Graston Technique tools and courses are good.  If you have the budget to go all out for these, great, they will be great to work with. I would be surprised if you were not satisfied with the course and their tools.  They have put a lot of thought and effort into their technique and tools.
  • I do not use the Graston instruments.  I think many more people should learn IASTM techniques.  If you really like the technique and want to learn more or get the better Graston tools, great.  But cost should not be a reason that you don’t learn how to use IASTM.
  • In regard to tools, there are so many quality IASTM tools on the market it’s difficult to actually recommend Graston Tools due to the cost.  Click here to see my review of IASTM tools.

 

Learn How to Start Performing IASTM Today!

Erson Religioso and I’s online educational program will teach you everything you need to know to start using IASTM today!  IASTM does not have to be complicated to learn or expensive to start using.  Learn everything about IASTM including the history, efficacy, tool options, different stroke patterns, basic techniques, advanced techniques, and how to integrate IASTM into your current manual therapy skills and treatment programs!  IASTM Technique 2.0 has now be released with updated research, new content, and now includes how to perform cupping and use mobility bands!

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