IASTM, Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization or Scraping is a method that has been around for centuries. Soldiers of old and recent history would use bones to scrape each-other to eliminate soreness and stiffness. Ancient cultures would use the jawbones or the edges of larger limb bones of dead animals for the same reason. It is as old as massage itself. The more modern version typically will require the use of a dull edged metal or jade object. The use of an emollient or salve will be applied to the skin, in order to reduce friction and pain on the surface being treated. Then the practitioner will move the instrument back and forth, “Scraping”, the area in need of treatment. Not everyone is qualified to do this properly. There is a specific technique and length of time that should be used.
The specific effect of scraping, also referred to as Graston, is debatable in terms of how much more beneficial the treatment is versus deep tissue or stretching alone. Does it only effect the superficial tissues, or does it work on the muscle themselves? Research has shown that it benefits the loosening and separating of layers of the fascia, which can be restrictive to the surrounding muscle fibers with which it connects. Fascia is everywhere in the human anatomy, bones, organs, muscle fibers. It is literally everywhere in the body.
Fascia can become rigid and stiff from trauma and stress (Physical or Psychological). Once it becomes stiff, it will cause range of motion issues, stiffness and pain. The action of scraping releases the tension and adhesions (tight bundles or fascial tissue) and causes a reduction in the above mentioned. This allows for more blood flow, hydration and permits the surrounding healthy tissue to move as intended without hindrance from the fascia. It also allows for better transfer of force between muscles, allowing them to contract and relax fully, enabling normal movement. Once scraping has occurred, it also makes other treatments like stretching or deep tissue easier for the therapist and the overall goal for the client or patient increasingly attainable, whether that be pain reduction or freedom of movement and more flexibility