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ASTYM Treatment: What your Connective Tissues Ordered

Limitations to your daily activities can be frustrating, especially if pain is involved.  Injuries, repetitive motions, faulty movement patterns, tissue degeneration, and surgeries can damage areas of connective tissue in our body, resulting in scar tissue or adhesions.  This damage to our tissues results in pain and limited range of motion, which in turn limits our body’s tolerance to activities.

Astym Treatment is the use of three acrylic instruments by a certified Astym Provider.  These instruments are used in a specific order and are run along your skin in the direction of the astym of kneemuscles, tendons and ligaments that lie under the skin.  When using the instruments, both you as the patient and the provider using the tools may feel bumps or “crunching” under the skin.  This is a result of scar tissue or adhesions.

How did that scar tissue get there?

The body is great at naturally restoring damaged tissue. Turns out that we, as human beings, aren’t so great about letting the body naturally restore damaged tissue. Inflammation is a good process that occurs in the body, setting off a series of events.  First, the body dispatches a type of cell called macrophages to the injured area to clean up cellular debris and eat away at the old defective tissue.  Next, collagen, which is a structural protein, begins rebuilding damaged tissue. Collagen is weak when it is first laid down and it needs to build up its strength gradually to support the damaged tissue and make it strong again.

Here’s where we get a little under or overzealous.  We either neglect to move the tissue because of pain or we push the tissue beyond what it can tolerate initially by completing repetitive strain or by “doing too much”.  Pain, weak supporting muscles, and/or dysfunctional movement patterns stress the newly formed collagen bonds, which in turn can cause them to be damaged and bleed.   The inflammation process must then start over to clean up the damage from the bleeding.   So now we have another round of new collagen arriving on the scene to form over the top of both the newly damaged and old damaged tissue.  If we continue to aggravate the tissue, the body thinks that it has to continue to clean up the debris and the process starts over…again.  This is chronic inflammation, which is not good.  This also likely means there is scar tissue and adhesions in the connective tissue that is painful and restricting motion.

How does healthy tissue differ from damaged tissue?

Have you ever shaken a box of spaghetti?  If you shake the box, the spaghetti glides back and forth without any friction.  Healthy tissues, whether it’s muscle, tendon or ligaments, should look like spaghetti gliding in a box.  If we take that spaghetti and put it in a pot of boiling water and neglect to add salt or oil to the water, what happens?  The spaghetti collagenbecomes gnarly and clumped together.  Think of that cooked spaghetti in the pot as the scar tissue and adhesions that are found as the Astym instruments are run over your skin.

As Astym stimulates tissue healing over the course of several visits, your body will begin to absorb the damaged tissue.  A physical therapist will help guide you in your rehabilitation so you don’t have to guess how much is too much or not enough in order to stimulate and strengthen the new collagen bonds.

How often will I need treatment?

The sooner you take care of your tissue, the better off you’ll be.  Duration of treatment can last anywhere from 6-16 sessions, depending on the chronicity and dysfunction.  That being said, most of the time there is significant change in pain and how your tissue feels after just 3-4 visits.


Guest Blog: Jodie Adams, PT, DPT, ASTYM Certified

For more information regarding Astym, check out their website or call 503.236.3108 to speak with one of our Astym certified therapists to see if it is an appropriate therapy for you.

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