Sports Injuries & Fascia
IASTM Resolves Nagging Issues Before They Become an Injury
Team sports, martial arts, dance, weight training, endurance athletes...anyone pushing to be better is going to be riding a thin line between peak performance and injury. Unless you have free access to daily care from trainers/therapists/sports doctors (as professional athletes do), you might end up waiting too long before getting professional help, and be stuck with an injury that requires a longer than expected recovery. My advice is simple: learn to treat yourself at the first sign of restriction/tension in your body. If you catch problems right away you can fix them yourself 90% of the time. You know your body better than anyone, and the use of IASTM (instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization) tools gives you the ability to "feel" subtle tensions and and "reach" into small focal areas that are at the heart of myofasical dysfunctions.
There is a paradigm shift in the way sports medicine views muscles (and injury)- that is, muscles themselves are not the source of problems that cause injury. In fact, muscles are nothing more than contracting cells all lined up within a container called a myofibril, which are lined up in a container called a fascicle. Finally, fascicles are bound up in a container (the muscle proper), and wrapped in fascia. Fascia is like plastic cling wrap, and science is now helping us understand that strains, sprains, and overuse syndromes are actually problems between fascial layers- where the pain and restriction is a result of thickening of the fluid between layers that allows them to glide over each other. Muscles, tendons, nerves, blood vessels, & organs must be able to slide within our bodies as we perform movement, especially when movement is complex, forceful, or repetitive.
Science never had a good way to explain treatment of muscle. There was nothing to treat, because if the muscle or ligament was actually torn all you could do was wait for the tissue to heal over two to three weeks. The good news is that science has a much better explanation for treatment of fascia and why this kind of treatment is often immediately effective. It turns out, the "problem" when an athlete becomes fatigued or forcefully overexerted can be reversed by initiating deep friction to the fascial layers that have become thickened. 2-4 minutes of consistent, steady massage will change the viscosity of this substance between layers and improve its fluidity and ability to lubricate movement between tissues.
IASTM- Ulimate Self-Care for Athletes
Does IASTM Work Better Than Warm-Ups?
When I was in track and cross country we did the usual "warm-up" which consisted of a 1/2 mile jog and a forceful stretching of each major muscle group involved in running (but only in the lower extremity- we hadn't considered that the upper extremity and torso is equally involved). This has been standard fare for the past 50 years or more for "warm-up" before physical activity, yet we are finding that "traditional" warm-ups are nearly useless. The first major problem is isolated "stretching" of individual muscles. Muscles don't stretch, and neither does the fascia connective tissue around them. What governs mobility is fascial slide between layers, and healthy neurological control/awareness from both receptors in the body and coordination centers in the brain. On the neurological end, you are better to perform Tai Chi (or other coordinated movements) then doing the stretching. For flexibility/ pliability- as an alternative to stretching-, you are much better to perform IASTM along movement chains to promote tissue glide and decreased interstitial (fluid between the fascial layers) viscosity.
You might be wondering if any massage tool would be suitable IASTM work. The short answer is, yes. Any simple self-administered soft tissue myofascial work with your bare hands or a simple tool is way, way better than the traditional stretching warm-up. For sure, stainless steel tools are more expensive than foam rollers, and plastic massage aids, but there are a couple of reasons you would consider when making the investment in stainless steel. The first is the "diagnostic resonance" of polished stainless steel as it glides over the skin. While stroking the length of the hamstrings, for example the tool's edge rides up and down on the tissue topography and amplifies it. It gives you a better sense of restricted tissue, scar tissue, and/or muscular trigger points (knots). That alone is worth upgrading to professional quality self-care instruments. After all, getting right at the problem area will speed up your recovery and keep you from wasting your time working "round and round" it. The second reason is durability. Stainless steel has no wear factor when used on soft tissue. It will last your lifetime- way past the usable life of plastic massage aides.
IASTM with stainless steel instruments is the "ultimate" in self-care, giving you the ability to immediately treat your problem areas before they become inflamed, allowing you to bypass long recovery times and chronic recurrence.
Which Myo-Bar Tools for Athletes?
Treat Ligaments and Tendons Before Training
The Myo-Bar "Sport" is designed for treating over ligaments and tendons, in smaller strokes 3-6" long. In the thin bevel, (sharper like Graston tools) It has a concavity to conform to the leg, but also a convexity/prow to focus a stroke deeper into the tissue. On the top edge there is a wider edge for general soft tissue strokes with a tendon relief notch for the Achillies. This would be the most versatile all around tool for IASTM self-care. The Orignial Bar has a wide barrel edge and designed for deep fascial release of muscular compartments. This tool is best used before and after training- before to increase pliability & after to aide lymph and lactic acid drainage. The Original bar would be used with long strokes over all the major muscle groups.
Before continuing, don't forget to bookmark this IASTM Athlete's page to easily access information later... and would you think about sharing this page with your friends? Below you will find links to see the athlete self care options. Also feel free to check out the professional sports medicine sets.