After practicing for five years I have a pretty good feel and experience for what to do when. I thought it would be helpful to write a short piece on why.
Firstly, not all soft tissue is created equal. Soft tissue includes the muscles and tendons.
For muscle injuries I can introduce circulation more easily as compared to tendons. For the muscle belly I use gentle gliding and kneading to warm the muscle belly, then some active movement with massage to use the neurological system to deliver some relief. If you require more work then I will go to sports cupping where I adhere the cups to the painful area and drag the the cup back and forth to increase circulation and soften the area. Then I will go back with gentle massage and neuromuscular techniques to finish. Finally, if there is still tension in the area I will use gua sha or IASTM to create friction or heat to pull waste products of the soft tissue.
Tendons on the other hand are made up of tougher tissue and require an attachment to the skeletal system that won’t detach. So if I’m working on a shoulder joint I will warm the area with sports cupping as described above, instead of gentle massage, as more force is needed to soften the tendons. Typically if you hear snapping when you move your joint that indicates an overly tight tendon that is tightly against the bone. Then I will do a series of deliberate strokes in many directions with the IASTM tool to pull waste products from the tendon tissue and create forces that the body will be notified to heal; so the new tissue will be able to withstand most forces without breaking down as easily.
There is more to it but that gives you a general idea on how I approach injuries. Of course moving and regular exercise keeps your circulation up and keeps your muscles healthy. Keep moving.