The Graston Technique is a form of Instrument-Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM) that is gaining rapid popularity worldwide. Created in 1994 when an athlete designed special tools to help with his soft tissue knee injury, the Graston technique now has over 32,000 certified practitioners all over North America. Increasing awareness among people about this technique is the primary reason for its widespread popularity.
The Graston Technique providers include chiropractors, medical doctors, athletic trainers, osteopathic physicians, licensed therapists and other healthcare community members. This technique helps the practitioner identify the patients’ areas of restriction and attempt to break up and massage the scar tissue. People suffering from muscle pain or previous injuries can benefit from this treatment. Let’s understand this technique in-depth and how it works to improve mobility in the body and reduce pain.
What Is the Graston Technique?
The Graston Technique has been a part of manual therapy for more than 25 years. It is an evidence-based treatment that can be beneficial in restoring movement and reducing pain caused by a soft tissue injury or dysfunction.
As a form of instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM), the Graston Technique uses tools or instruments to precisely identify and treat movement dysfunction caused by changes in soft tissues like muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia. This technique uses unique tools, instruments and protocols, which differentiate it from other forms of IASTM therapies.
Tools Used in the Graston Technique
Graston Technique uses tools and instruments that help treat soft tissue pain and fascial restrictions. Unlike other physical therapies that use wood, stones or ceramic tool, this technique is performed using stainless steel massage tools designed with beveled edges and angles to treat the underlying issues.
This technique uses six instruments of different shapes and sizes designed to work on all body parts, from the neck and shoulders to the delicate tissues of the ankle and foot. These specialized tools are only available to certified practitioners and Graston-trained clinicians who have successfully completed the Graston treatment training course.
These tools can treat edema, motor control issues and other chronic and acute conditions. The clinicians can identify and feel abnormalities in the connective tissue using these hyper smooth tools.
The different shapes and sizes of the Graston instruments help to target the specific part of the body and treat the underlying tissue dysfunction. A Graston tool used to treat forearm tissue will differ in size from the tool used on the sensitive foot area. The edges and design of Graston instruments help provide a mobilizing effect to scar tissue and diagnostically follow the kinetic chain to treat the cause and improve mobility and decrease pain.
How Does It Work?
The Graston Technique is a more intense version of manual therapy. This technique is most successful when combined with other rehabilitative modalities and exercises. Components of the Graston protocol include a cardiovascular warm-up to the problem area followed by the Graston massage, stretching and post-therapy treatment.
A careful analysis of the underlying condition with the precise treatment of the affected tissue is vital for improving overall health. A cardiovascular warm-up is crucial before beginning the Graston massage as it increases the blood flow to the treatment area, which develops the environment for healing.
Graston Massage Technique
The practitioner uses a cross-friction massage technique which involves specific strokes and pressure against the grain of scar tissue to re-introduce a bearable amount of trauma to the treatment area. Some people may see a temporary inflammation in the affected area, which increases the blood flow in the area. This process is beneficial in promoting the healing process of the soft tissue.
After the Graston massage, the practitioner engages the patient in light stretching and strengthening exercises to balance the movement impairment. An ice pack is applied to decrease any swelling and inflammation experienced after the Graston technique.
Benefits of the Graston Technique
The Graston technique’s primary focus is to reduce pain and swelling after an acute injury. In chronic injury cases, the Graston technique aims to disrupt fibrotic tissue to increase movement and reduce pain. Most patients can experience results in three to four sessions, while some may also feel an immediate reduction in pain after the first session.
Some of the most common conditions to be treated through the Graston Technique include Fibromyalgia, hip pain, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, Achilles tendinitis, cervical strain, medial epicondylitis, scar tissue, trigger finger, knee pain, heel pain and shoulder pain.
It has also been observed that there is a neurological benefit of using the Graston technique on patients. When a patient receives an instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) or manual therapy, some specific nerve fibers are activated.
What to Expect?
The Graston Technique requires recurring visits depending on the area to be treated and the tissue dysfunction. Here is what you can expect from the Graston technique:
- Before the Treatment: Prior to your appointment, patients should complete a cardiovascular activity such as walking on a treadmill or riding a bike to increase the blood flow in the body. At the office, you may undergo a heat treatment to warm up the soft tissue.
- During the Graston treatment: The therapist will use suitable Graston instruments to identify and treat the affected tissue in the body. A specific rubbing technique with optimum pressure is used to target the dysfunctional tissue. The tissue is rubbed using handheld instruments for a fixed time, usually a few minutes per body part. Some people may experience discomfort during the treatment.
- After the treatment: Patients may feel sore after the treatment, and in some cases, a little bruising and petechiae (small red dots on the skin surface) may be seen. Ice is applied to the affected area for 15-20 minutes to ease the discomfort and soreness. Practitioners recommend light stretching and exercises to help the tissue heal faster.
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The Graston Technique aims to improve the range of motion and reduce pain by treating the affected soft tissue. If you’re someone who has sustained an injury and experienced discomfort due to muscle strain, Graston Technique may help you elevate the soft tissue pain and increase mobility.