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There may be times when hands alone cannot thoroughly detect and treat soft tissue injury and restriction at deeper levels. Handheld instruments can be utilized, allowing the physician to reach these deeper tissues, as well as tissue at and near the surface, to find the source of restriction and to treat it. These tools allow the physician to break up abnormal densities in tissue, such as scar tissue, and to reinitiate first-stage healing in the body. Scar tissue forms in tissues to protect the body after an injury, but it is much less flexible than undamaged tissue. As scar tissue accumulates, muscles become shorter and weaker, tension increases on tendons causing tendinopathies, and nerves can become entrapped. This can cause reduced range of motion, loss of strength, and pain. If a nerve is trapped you may also feel tingling, numbness, and weakness. Because of the ability to reach different levels of tissue, IASTM is useful in these chronic pain syndromes, as well as acute pain syndromes such as sprains and strains.

One of the most common techniques of IASTM is the Graston technique, which uses differently shaped stainless steel instruments to work with the soft-tissue. These different tools allow for all areas of the body to be treated efficiently. FAKTR (pronounced FACTOR) stands for Functional and Kinetic Treatment with Rehab is a newer technique that was designed to incorporate the concepts of other soft-tissue treatments with IASTM. It utilizes instruments with motions and positions that provoke the pain, allowing the physician to detect and treat the contributing soft tissues. Rehabilitative exercises are also addressed to help in prevention of further problems.

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