ASTYM and Tennis Elbow

Astym therapy is a very specialized type of treatment therapists use to address soft tissue dysfunction in their patients. This treatment was developed by a group of multi-disciplinary medical specialists that wanted to use an external, non-invasive treatment to address issues their patients were experiencing, specifically with muscles, tendons, nerves, and other soft tissues. This group of specialists developed specific protocols that use the body’s own response to stimulate the growth of new, healthy tissue and facilitate the resorption of inappropriate scar tissue and fibrosis, which can play a leading role in pain in certain areas of the body.

Tennis Elbow, or lateral epicondylitis, is inflammation of the tendons that originate at the outside of the elbow. When a patient is diagnosed with lateral epicondylitis it is typically because of overuse or a specific injury that has damaged the soft tissue. These muscles are used often as they are the muscles that allow for extension of the wrist. Over time, development of “microtears” in these tendons cause the body to lay down scar tissue, which is made of collagen fibers. When the body lays down those collagen fibers, they are laid down in an unorganized manner…think cooked pot of spaghetti noodles. Astym treatment stimulates the body’s own healing mechanisms to realign the scar tissue (uncooked box of spaghetti noodles) and resorb inappropriate tissue, helping reduce pain while increasing motion and functional ability.

Using Astym specific instruments, the entire arm is treated with a very specific series of strokes that follow the direction of muscle, ligament, and tendon. During the treatment, which usually lasts about 20 minutes, you may feel smooth areas and you will feel more gritty areas. The gritty areas are the areas of dysfunction and as treatment progresses, those gritty areas will be less noticeable, indicating healing.

In conjunction with Astym treatment, stretches are essential to the healing process. The stretches provided by your therapist will tell the new fibers to line up properly (uncooked box of spaghetti noodles, again). And when your pain has been significantly reduced or alleviated, a strengthening program will be started to help the pain from returning once you get back to your daily routine.

A typical course of treatment utilizing Astym therapy lasts 4-6 weeks and can only be offered by certified Astym therapists. Many patients opt for this treatment instead of surgery and/or injections. Talk to your physician to see if you would be a candidate for Astym therapy.


Learn more about Katherine Branch, OTR-L. Learn more about ASTYM.

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