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Short communication

Effects of instrument-assisted soft-tissue mobilization on ankle range of motion and triceps surae pressure pain sensitivity

Corrie Myburgh, Are Hammern, Peter Mannfjord, Eleanor Boyle
Department of Sports Science and Clinical Biomechanics, University of Southern Denmark, Campusvej 55  DK-5230 Odense, Denmark. E-mail: cmyburgh@health.sdu.dk
DOI: 10.2340/20030711-1000005


Background: Within the practice of physical medicine, instrument-assisted soft-tissue mobilization (IASTM) is increasing in popularity. However, the intervention is still in its infancy and important clinical issues require elucidation; among these are the effects on asymptomatic individuals.
Methods: Twenty healthy males were allocated randomly to either 3 minutes of high-pressure IASTM or active self-stretch of the triceps surae muscles. Each individual served as his own control. Pre-post observations of active ankle range of motion, pressure-pain sensitivity and the occurrence of post-intervention petechial haemorrhage were made.
Results: A significant within-group increase in ankle range of motion was observed for both groups, but no significant between-group differences were noted. Pressure-pain sensitivity remained essentially unchanged. No petechiae were detected post-intervention.
Conclusion: Notwithstanding the limitations of this relatively small study and in relation to healthy individuals, IASTM increased active range of motion to the same extent as active self-stretch. Heavy-dose IASTM did not influence pain-pressure sensitivity and petechiae did not develop.

Lay Abstract

The aim of this study was to observe whether treatment with a steel mobilization tool would relax muscles, reduce pain (by reducing sensitivity to pressure) and, if used aggressively, would result in superficial bleeding under the skin. Healthy men were asked to perform a calf stretch in one leg. Then 3 min of instrument-assisted soft-tissue mobilization was performed on their other calf using strong pressure. Relaxation was observed in both ankles after the intervention, indicating a similar degree of improved stretch. Surprisingly, pressure sensitivity did not change, indicating that the participants´ bodies did not get used to the pressure. Finally, the instrument caused no superficial bleeding despite being applied with heavy pressure and over a long period of time.


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