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As manual therapists, our effectiveness has decreased

It may surprise you that if you looked at the research, manual therapy almost always washes out as being ‘ineffective.’ IASTM tools can change that.

Sponsored by RockTape

Let me start this article with a simple question to all my colleagues out there.

How successful do you think we are, collectively, as manual therapists? It may surprise you that if you looked at the research, manual therapy almost always washes out as being ‘ineffective.’

This study paints a similar picture—in fact our effectiveness has decreased in the past 25 years when it comes to low back and neck pain.1

It’s apparent that a change is necessary. We need to adjust our approaches, and I believe we can utilize new tools and methodologies to do so

Over the past 15-20 years many practitioners have successfully adopted Instrument Assisted Techniques (Graston, Hawk Grips, Edge Tools, etc.) to their treatment protocols. These tools come in all sizes and shapes and are typically supplemented with concurrent technical course content.

Now let me be clear, I am not suggesting that the answer to your effectiveness woes lies in the utilization of instruments. But I do believe, strongly, that some key advancement in tools along with science-based education can set the stage for better success.

RockTape Inc., has evolved from a simple tape company to what they like to call a movement company. Within this framework they have rocked (pun intended) the boat in respect to the tools you use and the knowledge you acquire as therapists.

Before we talk about the education platform, let’s talk about the newest tool in their arsenal, the Mohawk, and how it’s challenging the way you may have thought about Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Manipulation (IASTM) intervention.

To start, I have a question that some of you might have had also. Why are IASTM tools always a simple plastic or stainless device? Why shouldn’t you have a more diverse set of tools in our arsenal? RockTape shook up IASTM again.

They started with a uniquely shaped stainless steel tool that complemented their original RockBlades in size, weight and shape.

The “Swiss Army” IASTM tool

It was created via the input of the thousands of RockTape medical professionals worldwide. RockTape prides itself on their ability to listen to their following and make the necessary changes when needed. As for the tool’s construction, they didn’t stop there. With simple attachments, similar to an IPhone case, the original steel tool can become so much more.

The plastic “comb” attachment creates a novel stimulus to light touch receptors in the skin, hair, and fascia that have been shown to create anti-nociceptive sensations that aid in pain modulation both peripherally and centrally.

Additionally, the silicone sleeve attachment provides optimal tissue grab—creating shearing forces of the skin, fascia, and underlying entrapped nerves. All of a sudden, one tool becomes three. A true paradigm shift in IASTM tool development. Now you can create multiple attachments to facilitate multiple different outcomes for your patients. Different strokes for different folks.

Next we need to discuss the education attached to the tool. Classically, IASTM models of approach revolve around how we “manipulate” tissues. I say “manipulate” in quotes because there is plenty of evidence that refutes the idea you can mechanically distort tissues, including breaking adhesions and scar tissue.

If the science is debunking this notion, why are DCs still using these tools in this manner?

This antiquated thinking leads to overtreatment that results in poor outcomes, such as bruising and more pain. What we are attempting to do with the launch of our FMT Blades and Blades Advanced education is to introduce a new model of approach.

This approach revolves around how you manipulate the nervous system rather than the tissues, understanding that the central nervous system is what controls the outputs that you may observe after manual therapy treatment interventions.

Functional Movement Techniques

In our Blades education platform, we focus on how you can mitigate pain, up-regulate and down-regulate tissue tone, and lastly how to improve interlayer gliding (skin, fascia, nerves). We spend time on how to best apply the appropriate stimulus to the intervening tissue (most cases in the skin and accompanying hair follicles) to realize the optimal output.

We seldom hear the grunts and groans associated with typical IASTM treatments, nor do we mash and bash tissues to create what some like to call the “therapeutic bruising effect.” If this mode of treatment was effective, why isn’t ITB syndrome, low back pain, and other musculoskeletal syndromes eradicated?

Our experience shows that a minimally effective dose creates the necessary response. It takes some getting used to, but generally most attendees leave our education with a different set of tools, both in their hands and in their minds to be able to collaborate with the patient’s nervous system to create the long-standing changes you are looking for.

Steven Capobianco, DC, DACRB, CCSP, runs a private sports practice in Denver, Colorado. He is a self-described “fascial geek,” and adopted the model in the Functional Movement Techniques of Taping that he has developed along with RockTape Inc.

About RockTape

RockTape is a global leader in sports medicine products and education. Located in Silicon Valley, RockTape helps patients and athletes “go stronger, longer” with the world’s best kinesiology tape, powerful pain-relieving topicals, unique evidence-informed education seminars, mobility tools, and joint support accessories.



1. Menke, Kumar. “Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries and Risk Factors.” 2013. Health Data.

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