Recovery from intense BJJ, Judo, or any other combat sport is one of the most important aspects of maintaining longevity in the discipline of your choice. You may have seen videos on Instagram of people being treated with various stainless steel tools until their skin is marked and red. What exactly is this treatment and is it safe?
Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM) is a technique that helps Physical Therapists and other healthcare providers to detect and treat individuals with soft tissue pain, injury or movement dysfunctions. Gua Sha is a very similar treatment but the main difference between modern IASTM and Gua Sha in Chinese medicine besides technique is that the latter was not used to treat musculoskeletal conditions but was used along meridians to move bad chi out of the body, promote blood flow and to treat disorders of internal organs, as well as various other illnesses.
If you’ve ever experienced IASTM treatment, it’s mainly the nervous system that you are stimulating/influencing. Mechanical changes to the muscle system or trying to “break up scar tissue” is less likely. Basically, with this type of treatment you have convinced the nervous system to let you move more efficiently and decreased the pain alarm system in your body, which is important if you’re looking to recover from intense training more effectively.
Examples of when to use IASTM include:
• Limited range of motion
• Pain with movement
• Soft tissue restrictions
• Impaired body awareness
Is IASTM safe? It is a non-invasive approach to recovery considering you have no contraindications to treatment, such as having some sort of skin infection or sensitivity issues, a pacemaker, or other active implant under the skin. People who see good results from IASTM are usually physically active, but this type of treatment isn’t limited to athletes. It shouldn’t be used if you are dealing with an acute injury, and while there is no certification required to purchase or use IASTM tools, it is best to seek out a qualified medical professional if you’re interested in adding this to your repertoire of recovery for BJJ, Judo, or any other type of combat sport.
Doctor of Physical Therapy