Using instruments to treat soft tissues dates back at least 700 years ago to the first written record of the use of Gua Sha in the China. Since that time, many propriety forms of instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) such as Graston Technique® and Atsym® Therapy have been developed, but the technology has not changed much. What has changed is our knowledge of the mechanisms by which these techniques decrease pain. It used to be thought that IASTM worked by breaking up knots or scar tissue in
soft tissue. We now know that the larger effects of the treatment are the are the physiological response that the body creates following application of IASTM. For one, application of pressure over a tendon using a tool has been show to increase the number of fibroblasts (cells that lay down new ligament and tendon tissue) in the area to help with tissue repair. In addition, application of the technique stimulates large nerve fibers that carry information about touch and vibration. These nerves send signals to the spinal cord and brain faster than do the smaller nerves that carry noxious (things that should trigger pain) information, and thus, they have a pain-inhibiting effect.