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What is IASTM or Scraping?

What is Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM) or Scraping?

Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization or IASTM is the use of tools or instruments which enables clinicians to efficiently locate and treat soft tissue adhesions and tightness. The technique was derived from Traditional Chinese Medicine called Gua Sha. Gua Sha was reportedly applied along meridians to move the “bad chi” out through the skin.


Historically, many different materials have been used such as a butter knives, sea shells and rocks to apply the soft tissue treatment. Currently instruments may be made out of wood, ceramics, plastics, stone and stainless steel. The use of IASTM is rapidly growing with multiple clinical groups devising their own version of IASTM, with varying types of strokes being taught and additional instruments have been developed to produce the desired soft tissue effect.


The Graston ®Technique is one popular example of IASTM, having it’s own set of tools and shapes of tools that they feel allow the best application of this soft tissue treatment.


Here at BodyFit Physical Therapy, our physical therapist is trained in the Rock Tape IASTM technique.


What is the Graston Technique?

You may have heard friends raving about the results they’ve gotten by visiting a therapist to receive the Graston Technique for nagging pain and stiffness. And you might even know that practitioners need to undergo special training to become licensed in the Graston Technique, as well as the right to use its patented set of handheld instruments. But until you actually find yourself battling one of the many painful disorders involving connective tissue and skeletal muscles, you probably haven’t been that curious about therapy options. Yet the Graston Technique may just help you when other methods can’t.


Graston Technique practitioners use a set of up to six patented hand tools in order to mobilize soft tissue in various parts of the body. By using these implements, specially licensed physical therapists break up the fascial restrictions and scar tissue that creates pain and stiffness.


The application of the Graston tools on problematic tissue is designed to be part of the overall therapy session, which starts with a warm up prior to the use of the tools. Flexibility, strength building, and the all-important ice pack, generally finishes up the Graston Technique session.


What tools are used in the Graston Technique?

A half-dozen handheld, stainless steel tools are part of the Graston Technique, all with different angles and edges that target different areas of the body. The Graston tools first help identify areas needing treatment, by allowing the physical therapist to both feel a “graininess” through the tool which indicates tissue adhesions. Next, the tools are used to actually treat the problematic areas. Using a variety of these small, hand-held steel tools, the physical therapist then facilitates scar re-organization of the tissues by systematically rubbing it back and forth along the affected area.


Conditions Treated:


Many of the very health issues for which people seek therapy stem — at least in part — from fascial restrictions and a buildup of scar tissues. For that reason, Heather is trained in Graston and performs this technique on conditions in the upper extremity; for example:


  • Tennis elbow
  • Wrist sprains
  • Edema control
  • Thumb finger pain
  • Rotator cuff tendinitis
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Post-joint replacement scarring
  • Post-mastectomy scarring
  • Post-Caesarean scarring

What is Rock Tape IASTM?

Various versions of IASTM have been developed which are similar to the Graston technique. Rock tape has developed an IASTM application which is also performed with ergonomically designed instruments that help detect and treat the fascial restrictions, encourage rapid localization of blood flow and effectively treat areas exhibiting soft tissue fibrosis or “graininess”, chronic inflammation, or degeneration. Clinicians also theorize that the application of IASTM creates a neurostimulation to the skin, fascia and muscle. Per Rock Tape, the use of IASTM can up regulate or down regulate the nervous system, therefore facilitating improvements in range of motion, strength and pain perception following treatment. A benefit of IASTM, it the ergonomic design of the instruments providing the physical therapist with the ability to locate restrictions and apply the appropriate amount of pressure. At a cellular level studies have indicated increased fibroblast proliferation, reduction in scar tissue, an increased vascular response, and the remodeling of unorganized collagen fiber matrix following IASTM application. There is also a benefit to the physical therapist in that IASTM provide clinicians with a mechanical advantage, thus preventing over-use to the therapist’s hands.


Indications for IASTM:

  • Limited motion of a region
  • Pain with motion
  • Motor control or imbalance issues
  • Motor weakness

Conditions for which IASTM is usually used:


  • Medial Epicondylitis, Lateral Epicondylitis
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Neck Pain
  • Plantar Fascitis
  • Rotator Cuff Tendinitis
  • Patellar Tendinitis
  • Tibialis Posterior Tendinitis
  • Heel Pain /Achilles Tendinitis
  • DeQuervain’s Syndrome
  • Post-Surgical and Traumatic Scars
  • Myofascial Pain and Restrictions
  • Musculoskeletal Imbalances
  • Chronic Joint Swelling Associated with Sprains/Strains
  • Ligament Sprains
  • Muscle Strains
  • Non-Acute Bursitis
  • RSD (Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy)
  • Back Pain
  • Trigger Finger
  • Hip Pain (Replacements)
  • IT Band Syndrome
  • Shin Splints
  • Chronic Ankle Sprains
  • Acute Ankle Sprains (Advanced Technique)
  • Scars (Surgical, Traumatic)



  • Compromised tissue integrity (open wound, infection, tumor)
  • Active implants (pacemaker, internal defibrillator, picc/pump lines)
  • DVT
  • Cervical carotid sinus

For more information, and to see if this type of treatment is right for you...Contact Us Today at BodyFit Physical Therapy in Canton, Connecticut