What is IASTM?

What is IASTM?

IASTM stands for Instrumented Assisted Soft Tissue Massage.  “IASTM uses a hard-edged instrument made of metal, plastic or ceramic to add shearing stress to soft tissue in order to enhance the body’s healing response. The ability to focus mechanical force along a small contact surface to your patients’ target tissue, and do so with a relatively high level of comfort for both the patient and treating therapist, is one of the best features of this technique.”1


In Courtney’s previous blog she mentioned how IASTM can be effective for Achilles Tendionopathy.  I would like to take the time to give you more information about IASTM and what other injuries it may be effective in treating. 


At our office we use Hawk Grips, which are a specific type of IASTM.  Hawk grips were developed by an actual patient who had undergone physical therapy for a neck injury.  He found positive outcomes by his physical therapist using Graston technique on his chronic neck injury and decided to develop his own set of tools.  Those tools are now called Hawk Grips, as he was a St. Joseph’s University graduate.  Hawk Grips enable us to identify soft tissue restrictions in the tissue, as the tools provide feedback (such as vibration) that feels to us as if we are going over rumble strips in the road.  Once we identify that area of restriction we are able to concentrate our treatment to those tissues to promote healing. 


What does the research say?

There have been various studies utilizing IASTM:

1. 37 Year old Male, Non-Contact Patellar Tendon Rupture while playing basketball with surgical repair 2

  1. 10 weeks post op had 90 deg of flexion and 25-30 deg extension lag

  2. 5 sessions over 4 weeks consisting of warm up, Graston (IASTM), joint mobs, flexion ROM activities, strengthening and modalities

  3. Visit 5-110 deg AROM flexion, no pain, 3 deg extension lag


2. Randomized Controlled Trial with 107 patients (113 elbows), randomized to eccentric exercises group (control) by HEP and Astym (IASTM) group treated 2x/week 3

  1. Treatments were done for 4 weeks

  2. 78.3% of Astym met resolution at 4-8 week compared to 40.9% of control


3.   35 Asymptomatic Collegiate Baseball Players 4

  1. 17 players to Graston (IASTM) and 18 to control (no treatment)

  2. Graston was performed, parallel and perpendicular to muscle fibers of the posterior axillary border for 20 seconds each

  3. Glenohumeral horizontal adduction improved 11.1 deg and glenohumeral internal rotation improved by 4.8 deg following 1 treatment application



Bottom Line:

            IASTM is gaining popularity and the evidence is growing for use in conjunction with other therapeutic techniques, including active stretching and exercise, manual therapy and modalities.  We should be implementing IASTM for those appropriate patients with soft tissue injuries; otherwise we may be putting them at a disadvantage in their recovery.  We are lucky to have access to the full set of Hawk Grip tools at our office and use them daily with positive outcomes.   



  1. ADVANCE for Physical Therapy and Rehab Medicine. 2013 Oct. Online

  2. INT J Ther Massage Bodywork 2010; 3(2): 14-21

  3. Peer J. 2015; 3: e967

  4. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2014 Feb; 9 (1): 1-7