Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization: Picking the Best Tool for You

By Nadia Lessard, Registered Massage Therapist

Recently, the Health Industry has seen a huge influx of home recovery tools. Just to name a few, we have foam rollers, lacrosse balls, suction cups, and massage guns. All of these tools are very accessible and easy to use. Now, there is a new addition to the recovery team: Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM) tools.

Without a doubt, our favourite tools are the Sidekick Tools.

The Sidekick Tools are IASTM tools, also known as muscle scrapers. They are designed to increase blood flow to a painful area while also improving your recovery. The Sidekick Tools are very similar to Gua Sha, which is a traditional Chinese healing method that has been used to treat chronic pain. Stride Physiotherapy in Red Deer recently started carrying Sidekick Tools! The models we carry include: the Curve, the Echo, the Eclipse, and the Bow.

Each Sidekick tool varies in size, shape, and material. Specific body parts require specific tools, and so do different treatments. These are not one-tool-fits-all for soft tissue mobilization! However, the Sidekick Tools all have the same therapeutic effects:

  • Increased range of motion
  • Relieve tension or stiffness
  • Reduce pain
  • Improve recovery time

Let’s take a look at each individual muscle scraping tool to see which one is best for you!

The Curve Sidekick Tool

The Curve Sidekick Tool is made of Bian stone. The stone makes it a bit more budget-friendly, and it is comfortable when you glide it on your skin. However, the stone makes the tool more delicate and easier to break. We still love it, though! As a Registered Massage Therapist, I recommend the Curve to people with tight shoulders or neck muscles. I used to show patients how to use a lacrosse ball to massage their neck and shoulders, but those areas can be a little tricky to reach. The Curve is an alternative. It is the perfect size to treat these smaller areas easily and with minimal effort.

The Echo Sidekick Tool

The Echo is a similar shape to the Curve, but its edges are different in size, and it is made of stainless steel. Due to the stainless steel material, it is heavier than the Curve, which makes it a little more aggressive on the skin. The Echo can be used for arm pain, neck and shoulder issues, knee pain, and is also great to use prior to any activity to prevent injuries. Some common conditions that the Echo can help treat are:

  • Golfer’s elbow
  • Tennis elbow
  • Neck and shoulder pain
  • IT band issues
  • Back tightness
  • Plantar fasciitis

The Eclipse Sidekick Tool

The Eclipse is the perfect IASTM tool to treat smaller areas, specifically the feet and calves. Many of us have suffered from plantar fasciitis or shin splints over the years. But these conditions don’t always surface due to fitness injuries. Things like changing footwear or spending a lot of time standing can trigger the inflammation. Massaging your calves has been proven to help in the healing process of these conditions. A foam roller is often what I have recommended patients to use to reduce the symptoms, but if you are looking for a less awkward and physically demanding therapy, the Eclipse is your tool.

The Bow Sidekick Tool

The Bow is the largest of our Sidekick Tools. This tool is great for bigger areas such as the quads, hips, IT band, and hamstrings, which get a lot of work! I have seen it help with backs as well. The Bow provides a lot of coverage on a treatment area which can save you time and energy. The handles on either side of the Bow makes it easier to glide over these big areas. I would recommend this one for anyone suffering from knee or hip pain.

How to Use Your Scraping Tool at Home

Now that you have learned about the different Sidekick Tools we carry, check out this quick video below to learn about how to use your scraping tool.

With all scraping tools, you want to use medium pressure on a painful area or areas of concern for a total of a few minutes. Additionally, seeing red on the skin is a great sign when using scraping tools!

In light of your budget and area of concern, one tool might suit your needs better than the others. If I were to recommend one Sidekick Tool, the Echo is by far my favorite. I have been carrying it everywhere I go. It is perfect for my neck, shoulders, quads, IT Bands, hips, low back, calves and plantar fascia. My Echo even came with me to a CrossFit competition! It fit inside my carry-on and made it through security without any problem!

I hope this helped you learn more about the family of Sidekick Tools. If you are looking to take a more active role in your recovery and health, grab one and try it for yourself! Stop by the clinic or book an appointment online with one of our Registered Massage Therapists to learn more by clicking here.