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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Study Spotlight: IASTM Increases Myofascial Trigger Point Pain Threshold

By: Joel Luedke


Trigger points are defined as hyper-irritable, palpable nodules in a skeletal muscle.  If you've had active ones, you know they hurt and hurt a lot.  Instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) is a technique using instruments (metal, plastic, stone) to help address these trigger points to help in reducing pain and tightness and breaking the pain/spasm cycle.  This study looked specifically at the application of this technique to the upper trap.


What They Did
Researchers took a group of 29 healthy individuals with trigger points in their upper trap muscle.  They used an intervention of IASTM (see study for details) that lasted 5 minutes with a variety of application techniques.  There was a series of 6 treatments in the intervention group over three weeks.  The measure of influence was changes in the pressure pain threshold of those trigger points.

What They Found
The research group found that a 5 minute intervention using three IASTM techniques can effectively increase the pressure pain threshold of a trigger point over 6 treatment in a 3 week period.

What It All Means
If you have ever had an active trigger point in your upper trap you know how uncomfortable it can be.  Typically pressing into those trigger points does not help the cause unless you can work to get it to release.  The use of IASTM could be a way for you to treat that area with less discomfort and pressure directly down into the trigger point but still allowing for improvement of symptoms.

This presents you options when it comes to the treatment of trigger points and both the local and referred pain they can present.  It adds to the options of massage, dry needling and myofascial decompression that can be beneficial.

Limitations:
This study specifically looked at just one area of how to assess 'improvement' when it comes to trigger points.  That doesn't always mean there is an enhanced function and also a longer term improvement.  That could been seen as a limitation here but relief within a short period of time is promising.

There could also be discussion around the scientific basis for trigger points as depending on the practitioner as well as researcher the belief in what trigger points really are and how they are identified can be controversial.  

LINK: Instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization increases myofascial trigger point pain threshold.
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