A new “old” treatment for chronic muscle pain

As the saying goes, “everything old is new again.”

I want to share with you one of the most effective treatments I’ve found for chronic muscle tightness and chronic muscle injuries. It’s generically called “instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization”, meaning that an instrument is used to perform therapy to muscles, tendons, and associated structures.

The principles are similar to other types of muscle therapies like deep tissue massage, trigger point therapy, etc. Goals are to work over the problem areas of the body to help break down adhesions, increase blood flow, and improve function. However, in this case, an instrument is used versus the hands.

So, what’s the advantage to using an instrument? Let’s take a look at one type of instrument.

SASTM Instrument

As you can see from the photo, there is a thin edge. This thin edge allows a practitioner to work deeper into the muscle with less pressure. Conversely, using a broad contact like a thumb requires much more pressure to get as deep, which can become rather uncomfortable. So, it allows a practitioner to provide deep tissue therapy at greater comfort to the patient.

Second, using the instrument allows a practitioner to “feel” adhesions more effectively than using hands along. I have often run my hands across someone’s upper traps and I can feel large “knots”, but can’t feel much else. Using the instrument, I can feel these small adhesions. These adhesions are like the difference between using chalk to draw on smooth tile versus a concrete sidewalk. So, it allows a practitioner to better locate problem areas and focus efforts where it’s needed most.

The basic premise of the technique is to induce a controlled inflammatory state in order to break down scar tissue and muscle adhesions. When combined with other therapies and physical rehabillitation, as the body responds to this controlled inflammation, new tissue is laid down in an arranged pattern versus the disorganized scar tissue and adhesions. This allows for better function, more strength, and less chance of reinjury.

I’ve been using this technique for about 3 years now. My first patient was my wife Susie. She was in a head on collision 2 years prior to me learning the technique. During those two years, she tried physical therapy, chiropractic care, and even injections into her upper back and neck. Still, her pain persisted. When I learned the technique, she came along with me to the seminar. She was my test subject so to speak. That night at dinner, she said to me, “this is the first time I haven’t had pain in 2 years”. I was sold. It took her about 6 more treatments to get rid of the problem completely, and it has only come back a handful of times in the past 3 years.

I have treated hundreds of patients with this technique since, and I am pleased to say that a very large majority respond very well. It has worked especially well for chronic conditions involving muscle tightness. The instruments’ ability to reduce adhesions and scar tissue help people get better in a few weeks versus months without using them. I’ve had patients get more relief in 3-4 visits using the instruments than they did in dozens of visits at other providers.

So, I guess you’re wondering what I mean by it’s a new old treatment. There is an old Chinese healing art called Gua Sha. This is the use of animal horns to perform what I have described here. It’s probably hundreds, if not thousands of years old. It was recently introduced to America with the help of David Graston. For more history, click here.

Today, there are a few different groups teaching variations of the technique and are known as Graston Technique, SASTM, ASTYM, or Gua Sha.

If you’re suffering with chronic pain, chronic muscle tightness, recurring injuries at the same area, or have other muscle or joint issues that haven’t responded well to other treatments, this technique may help. You can expect improvement within just a few visits. Side effects are very mild and include mild soreness and bruising. For more examples of patients I’ve used this on with success, click here.

If you’re in Orwigsburg or the surround areas of Schuylkill County, call our office at 570-366-2613 to schedule an appointment. If you’re not in the area, you can check here for a list of providers near you.

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