3 IASTM Tools Every Physical Therapist Needs

IASTM—instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization—offers several benefits for patients in a physical therapy setting.

For instance, using instruments during the rehabilitation process can help sports injury patients improve both their range of motion and soft tissue function according to research published in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation. It can also help relieve their pain while potentially reducing their recovery periods, enabling them to “get back into the game.”

A systematic review study, which was published in the journal Physical Therapy Reviews, reports that IASTM offers these types of benefits by increasing blood flow to the impacted area, releasing myofascial restrictions, and interrupting pain receptors. It also positively impacts various tissues by reducing their viscosity and improving flexibility.

One question that some PTs have is regarding the type of IASTM tools needed to deliver this type of patient care. These are three IASTM tools that can help increase the value of patient care, as well as some ways to select the best ones for you.

#1: The handlebar

This tool got its name because its size and shape are, in fact, like a bike’s steering wheel. The handlebar is an IASTM tool which, due to its length, makes it beneficial when working on larger muscle groups. This includes areas related to the quadriceps, hamstrings, and trapezius muscles. The Graston Technique is one of many well-known treatment method which utilizes the handlebar during IASTM.

#2: Small, smooth-edged IASTM tools

Another type of IASTM tool that many healthcare practitioners use to help patients heal and provide them pain relief is a smaller, smooth-edged tool. Depending on brand and design, many of these tools look like a spoon or a small, rounded square and work better when focusing on smaller, more defined areas of the body. Used frequently when practicing the traditional Chinese medicine treatment method called gua sha, Medical News Today shares that this category of IASTM tools help to break up scar tissue, restore joint function, and reduce inflammation.

#3: Beveled edge tools

The third type of IASTM tool every PT needs is a beveled edge tool. Because of its design, this tool option can be used on many different body parts. Additionally, there are single-beveled edge tools which are good for deeper penetration and double-beveled edge tools which work best when focusing on smaller, more sensitive areas of the body, like the wrists and feet.

When purchasing these types of tools, there are several factors to consider, improving the likelihood that the one you buy is best suited for you and your particular practice.

IASTM purchasing consideration factors

The first factor to think about is your patient, what conditions do you see most often in your physical therapy office? Based on this information, which type of IASTM tool would you likely use most

A second factor to consider deals with the tools themselves. With so many brand and design options available, how do you know which ones are best for you? To make this part of the purchasing process less overwhelming, narrow down your options by selecting two or three that you’re most interested in buying and compare each one based on:

  • Product durability: Since you’ll be exerting a fair amount of pressure on these tools time and time again, they need to be able to withstand the repeated stress.
  • Price: This involves not only looking at the price of the tool itself, but also your return on investment. For instance, will you be able to treat patients with injuries beyond those you normally treat now simply by buying this particular tool? If so, the cost of the tool may be minimal compared to how much you may be able to expand your service offerings once you have it.
  • Return policy: If you purchase the tool and don’t like it, what type of return policy does the company have? Are you able to return it at all?
  • Customer reviews: Some sites offer the ability to see what other customers have thought about specific types of tools. Research what others say are the tool’s pros and cons.

By looking at these four things, you’re better able to compare one product line against another and make a choice best aligned with the IASTM tools that you would prefer.

It’s important that when you chose your tool, you are trained to use it efficiently, effectively, and safely. This may require that you take additional trainings, at the same time enabling you to offer your patients a higher quality of care. The more tools a PT has in his or her toolbox, the more value a patient can receive.

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