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It’s a Thumbs up for IASTM

An open access article published in August 2022 informs us that IASTM tools can be hand, and possibly career savers!

Manual therapists are at increased risk from work related musculoskeletal disorders. Areas affected by overuse injuries are the trapezium-metacarpal thumb joints and the joints of the hands in general. Manual therapy injuries can be harmful and disabling, with negative effects on a career. Manual techniques performed in a constant manner over the course of clinical activity can lead to pain in the hand and thumb. Based on the results of the survey through questionnaires administered to a cohort of 1,562 Australian physiotherapists, the prevalence of thumb problems was 65% (pain, hypomobility, hypermobility). Study participants cited a number of contributing factors to the onset of thumb problems. Among the common factors attributed, there was a direct relationship between manual work with patients. Factors included; previous orthopedic surgery, different but constant manual techniques, massage, and manual therapy to reduce the symptoms of trigger points (McMahon et al 2006).

The significant advantages of using an IASTM (instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization) in manual therapy is that it offers a mechanical advantage to the clinician’s hand and results in less compression at the trapezius-metacarpal joint for the clinician. Applying less force when using the IASTMs means less neuromotor fatigue in the hand and fewer findings of injury to the clinician’s musculoskeletal system. The operator could comfortably use the IASTM, despite the pain in the thumb, making the patient find the benefit more quickly. If the clinician who uses manual therapy and who suffers from arthrosis of the trapezius-metacarpal joint can still work with the patient using IASTM, the time off work could be reduced or removed altogether.

The use of IASTM not only improves some functional parameters for the patient but can protect the joints of the operator’s/clinician’s hand. Research indicates that clinicians who treat myofascial disorders can apply sufficient force to reach the desired tissue depth through the use of IASTM (Duffy et al 2022). This allows the operator to save the use of the joints of the hand. The use of the IASTM must be viewed from a multidisciplinary perspective, and its use can expand the possibilities for resolving the patient’s musculoskeletal dysfunction. However, further studies are needed to highlight all the benefits that the clinical operator who uses manual medicine can derive from the IASTM approach. Currently, the scientific literature highlights the symptomatological benefits following the use of IASTM for the patient; however, the literature is scarce regarding the positive adaptations deriving from the same instrument on the trapezium-metacarpal joint as well as on the joints of the hand for the clinician.

This is one of the emerging reasons why many people look to attend a RockBlade IASTM courses in person or online.

By Daniel Lawrence @ThePhysioChannel



Pianese L, Bordoni B (August 31, 2022) The Use of Instrument-Assisted Soft-Tissue Mobilization for Manual Medicine: Aiding Hand Health in Clinical Practice. Cureus 14(8): e28623. DOI 10.7759/cureus.28623

McMahon M, Stiller K, Trott P: The prevalence of thumb problems in Australian physiotherapists is high: an observational study. Aust J Physiother. 2006, 52:287-92.

Duffy S, Martonick N, Reeves A, Cheatham SW, McGowan C, Baker RT: Clinician reliability of one-handed instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization forces during a simulated treatment. J Sport Rehabil. 2022, 31:505-10.