I’ve had some requests over the past few months about what my favorite tools, tips, & tricks are. Today I’m starting with my favorite Instrument-Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM) tools. Brief note here: in school, one of our professors was super anti-IASTM of any kind, so that largely colored how I began practicing in clinical rotations & performing STM for my patients. However, during my 4th (& oncology) rotation, I saw just how helpful these tools could actually be when working with patients. There’s so many different kinds out there, so there’s only one way to figure out which ones you like: explore! Try them out!
I’ve had exposure to various tools through different training courses, colleagues, & even my massage therapist, who is always talking to me about the continuing education she is doing – boom interdisciplinary collaboration & learning! I got to try a few techniques/tools out during clinical rotations, but most of my learning has been done observing others, talking to other practitioners, & lots of perusing through catalogs to see which fun tool to try next.
Last note here: none of these are paid endorsements. The products listed below are simply the ones that I like to use in my practice.
There are several different types of metal IASTM tools on the market. I ultimately ended up going with Hawkgrips because they were cheaper than Graston. I have a set of 6 tools with a variety of edges & shapes that I find very useful for scar & soft tissue mobilization. Especially when it comes to mobilizing axillary soft tissue & cording, these tools are a hand-saver. Special note from Elise: warm up your tools in your hands before applying them. Your patients really don’t appreciate ice-cold metal stuck in their armpits, etc.
Mira cupping tools
These are silicone cups originally advertised for anti-cellulite purposes. I cannot speak whatsoever to the anti-cellulite uses; however! these work fantastic for myofascial decompression, especially for soft tissue restrictions after mastectomies, radiation, & breast reconstruction. I typically apply them, then move them around the affected areas, rather than leaving them in place for long periods of time like some cupping methods. I do not try to bruise my patients.
You can buy these Mira cups on Amazon as a set or buy a larger STM package, complete with an instructional manual & multiple cups. I’ve also seen a really big silicone cup that I think would be useful for larger tissue areas such as the abdomen – that’s next on my purchase list!
If you’re going to use IASTM, you’re probably going to need some emollient cream. But which one? My flavor of the day is currently Deep Prep. I use the Ultra Care (the green label) because it seems to be really well tolerated by most of my patients, not causing any reactions to their irradiated skin, etc. It doesn’t absorb quickly into the skin (unless your patients are SUPER DEHYDRATED & not using their lotions like you told them – speaking from experience), & I find it glides well with my IASTM tools listed above. Plus, there isn’t an overpowering aroma like some other products (I smell you, Vanilla-Ice-Cream-Flavored-Emollient-Cream).
Want to learn more about something else?
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