Instrument-Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization Forces Applied by Trained Clinicians During a Simulated Treatment

in Journal of Sport Rehabilitation
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Context: Instrument-assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM) is a therapeutic intervention used by clinicians to identify and treat myofascial dysfunction or pathology. However, little is known about the amount of force used by clinicians during an IASTM treatment and how it compares to reports of force in the current literature. Objective: To quantify the range of force applied by trained clinicians during a simulated IASTM treatment scenario. Design: Experimental. Setting: University research laboratory. Participants: Eleven licensed clinicians (physical therapist = 2, chiropractor = 2, and athletic trainer = 7) with professional IASTM training participated in the study. The participants reported a range of credentialed experience from 1 to 15 years (mean = 7 [4.7] y; median = 6 y). Intervention: Participants performed 15 one-handed unidirectional sweeping strokes with each of the 5 instruments for a total of 75 data points each. Force data were collected from a force plate with an attached skin simulant during a hypothetical treatment scenario. Main Outcome Measures: Peak force and average forces for individual strokes across all instruments were identified. Averages for these forces were calculated for all participants combined, as well as for individual participants. Results: The average of peak forces produced by our sample of trained clinicians was 6.7 N and the average mean forces was 4.5 N. Across individual clinicians, average peak forces ranged from 2.6 to 14.0 N, and average mean forces ranged from 1.6 to 10.0 N. Conclusions: The clinicians in our study produced a broad range of IASTM forces. The observed forces in our study were similar to those reported in prior research examining an IASTM treatment to the gastrocnemius of healthy individuals and greater than what has been reported as effective in treating delayed onset muscle soreness. Our data can be used by researchers examining clinically relevant IASTM treatment force on patient outcomes.

Martonick, Reeves, Cheatham, McGowan, and Baker are with the University of Idaho, Moscow, ID, USA. Whitlock and Stevenson are with the WWAMI Medical Education Program, Moscow, ID, USA.

Martonick (nmartonick@uidaho.edu) is corresponding author.
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