A Proposed Healing Mechanism Behind IASTM Treatment
When the soft tissue of the body becomes mechanically overloaded through trauma, repetitive strain, etc, the cellular environment around those tissues can become damaged (Standley 2007). This environment called the extracellular matrix must be repaired to allow our tissues to properly function once again (Hammer 2008).
After a soft tissue injury, the damaged area becomes perfused with blood, nutrients, and many different cells. One of these specialized types of cell is called a fibroblast. They are stimulated after an injury to repair the cellular environment and allow our bodies to heal. They help to create collagen fibres, which are essential to effectively rebuild our damaged tissue (De Moz et al. 2007).
There is a direct relationship between building collagen and recovery from injury in human soft tissues. “Fibroblast proliferation and activation are key events in the healing process of connective tissue – based structures and are responsible for the gene expression and thereby production of cellular mediators of healing and synthesis of collagen” (Lundon 2007).
Once fibroblasts have the opportunity to deposit collagen there is a maturation process that needs to take place. Healing soft tissue after injury results in irregularly arranged bundles of collagen linked together in a haphazard manner. These bundles of collagen lack water content, and become stiff and dense (Threlkeld 1992). These bundles of collagen if not mobilized through exercise, manual therapy or other means may produce tissue adhesions (Hammer 2008).
It follows that to improve healing, we want to engage in treatments and activities that will increase the number and activity of fibroblast cells in an injured area, and also mobilize and smooth out deposited collagen (Hammer 2008).
Using an instrument to induce a mechanical load can increase fibroblast production, promote realignment of collagen fibers, and initiate earlier healing and return of function. Applying controlled force to healing tissue with IASTM can modulate the inflammatory process to encourage a healing cascade that may lead to optimum collagen deposition and maturation (McMurray et al. 2015).
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Lundon, K., 2007. The effect of mechanical load on soft connective tissues. In: Hammer, W.I. (Ed.), Functional Soft- tissue examination and Treatment by Manual Methods, third ed. Jones & Bartlett, Sudbury, MA, pp. 33–161.
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