Can You Scrape Your Pain Away?

The skin is an area often overlooked in physical medicine and rehabilitation, which is unfortunate as it is an area rich in mechanoreceptors, known to have a strong influence on tissue tone, cellular communication and movement.

Scraping the skin, or Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM), stimulates mechanoreceptors, causing microvascular trauma and capillary hemorrhage, and a  localized inflammatory response that stimulates the body’s healing cascade via immune and reparative systems.

The goal of healing is to enhance the proliferation of vascular elements and fibroblasts, which results in collagen deposition, tissue maturation and ultimately healthier connective tissue that is more resilient to future strain/injury,

IASTM is a novel technique that stimulates this process.

IASTM  works synergistically with specific stretching and strengthening exercises as part of an integrative approach to pain and soft tissue injuries.

What does the research show?

Soft Tissue Extensibility

Optimal musculoskeletal function requires adequate joint range of motion, which may be restricted by muscle tightness.

Inadequate muscle flexibility increases susceptibility to both overuse syndromes  and acute injuries.

Improving flexibility is often a goal of treatment interventions for injury prevention, performance enhancement, and injury rehabilitation.

A theorized cause of muscle tightness is Tissue Extensibility Dysfunction (TED).

Musculoskeletal injury, even if microtraumatic, can produce scar tissue that alters the properties of collagenous tissue and affects normal neurodynamics and the sliding and/or tension within the fascia.

Functional benefits of IASTM included increased tissue extensibility, improved range of motion, decreased pain and return to normal function


Finger Joint injury

Manual therapy approaches integrating IASTM may provide an effective conservative treatment strategy for patients with finger/hand conditions in the performing arts and other patient populations.


Shoulder Range of Motion

The application of IASTM to the posterior shoulder provides acute improvements in shoulder range of motion among baseball players.


Knee Ligament Healing

IASTM accelerated ligament healing via favorable effects on collagen formation and organization. The findings of this study are clinically interesting, as there are few established interventions for ligament injuries, and IASTM is a simple and practical technique.


Knee and Hip Range of Motion (ROM)

Both IASTM and Foam Rolling  significantly improved knee and hip ROM,  with higher gains observed in the IASTM  group.

In addition, at 24 h post-treatment, only the IASTM  group preserved most of the gains in ROM.

IASTM  and Foam Rolling are useful  for increasing lower extremity ROM of athletes.

Plantar Fasciitis

The combination of IASTM and stretching resulted in clinically meaningful improvement in those with heel pain



I have been using IASTM over the past 20 years and am often amazed, as are patients, at the rapid changes in range of motion and pain relief that occurs in a matter of minutes.

IASTM is often used Functionally, Kinetically, Provocatively and with Rehabilitation.


About the Author

Dr. Geoff LecovinNaturopathic Physician/Chiropractor/Acupuncturist/Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist/Corrective Exercise Specialist/Performance Enhancement Specialist/Certified Sports Nutritionist/View all posts by Dr. Geoff Lecovin