In collaboration with Brian Chase, CHT, OTR/L of NW Sports Physical Therapy in

Tacoma, WA, our research group addressed his question of whether instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) is effective for clients and if so, are certain brands such as Graston Technique (GT) or Astym more effective. Through our careful review of the literature, summarized in a critically appraised topic format, we found that the majority of studies (case reports and experimental studies) found that IASTM treatments improved scores on outcome measures including return to occupation, range of motion, pain, and grip and pinch strength over baseline measurements. However, randomized controlled trials that compared IASTM to other treatments including ultrasound, active movement, acupuncture, and massage therapy generally showed that IASTM is not significantly more effective than other forms of therapy. The existing evidence for IASTM is insufficient to justify and support the use of IASTM in most hand therapy scenarios. To remedy this problem we initiated a translation of knowledge and created a research needs assessment (RNA) highlighting the current gaps in the literature.

Through sharing this needs assessment we hope that hand therapy practitioners will be compelled to publish findings that they feel could help fill the research needs that we have outlined. We reached out to the Facebook pages of Hand Therapy and the American Society for Hand Therapists (ASHT) to share our RNA with the intention of receiving critiques and feedback. We then forwarded our RNA to the Research Department of the ASHT and are awaiting further response. Our RNA has also reached the ears of the Graston Technique which resulted in an informative conference call with the Graston Technique’s Director of Strategic Planning, Mike Ploski PT, ATC, OCS, our group members; Kaitlin, Sarah, Yoseph, and Evan, and our research chair, George Tomlin. Based on our research and our identification of gaps in the literature, we recommend that practitioners contribute to the field of research on this topic to provide more evidence for the use of IASTM in practice.

Publication Place

Tacoma, Washington


University of Puget Sound

Faculty Advisor

George Tomlin, PhD, OTR/L, FAOTA

Project Chairperson

Publication Date



Capstone Project





Degree Program

Occupational Therapy

Degree Level

Master of Science


Occupational Therapy


University of Puget Sound