D. Kirk1, N. Martonick2, K. Kunz2, J. Wadner2

1University of Idaho, Moscow, ID; 2University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA.

BACKGROUND: Instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) is a sports medicine technique used to improve measures of pain and function by applying shear forces to the area of restriction. Currently, evidence is limited for the effect of different IASTM forces on both patient-perceived and kinematic measures during clinical movement screens. PURPOSE: The primary purpose of the study was to examine whether there were improvements in sagittal plane kinematics at the ankle and knee during the single leg squat (SLS) and weight bearing lunge test (WBLT) after a high and low force IASTM application. The secondary purpose was to investigate whether participants perceived a difference in muscle tightness between forces before and after the IASTM treatments. METHODOLOGY: Participants (n=10) identified as having functional dorsiflexion restrictions during a double leg squat received both a high (10-15N) and low force (0-5N) IASTM treatment on either lower extremity, selected at random. The IASTM treatments were performed on the soleus and gastrocnemius while forces were gauged by a pressure sensor attached to the instrument. Peak knee and ankle flexion were assessed with inertial measurement units for both the SLS and WBLT. Self-reported lower leg muscle tightness was assessed using a VAS scale ranging from “no tightness” to “extreme tightness”. Separate 2x2 ANOVAs were used to evaluate the effect of treatment (pre/post) and force (high/low) for kinematics and VAS scores during the SLS and WBLT (α ≤ 0.05). RESULTS: No statistically significant effects of treatment or force were found for any kinematic variables during both the SLS and WBLT. Significant main effects of treatment were found for VAS scores during both the SLS (p = 0.05) and WBLT (p = 0.01). Main effects for differences in force or interactions were not found. CONCLUSION: The current findings indicate that kinematic and patient-perceived outcomes from IASTM treatments may not be affected by forces within the selected ranges of this study. Thus, practitioners may consider using less force to limit the potential of unnecessary discomfort when using IASTM. Additionally, practitioners should be aware that improvements in patient perceptions of function may not correspond with mechanical measures.

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