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How Does the Graston Technique Work?

Last Updated: October 6th, 2023 at 03:34 pm
Read Time: 3 Minutes

Your movements and strength are aided by the variety of muscles, ligaments, tendons, and fascia that support the spinal structure. When these soft tissues are injured, they play a large role in the pain, limited range of motion, and discomfort you may feel.

Fortunately, there are treatments to help reduce pain and increase function. For patients suffering from soft tissue injuries, the doctors at ChiroCare of Florida highly recommend the Graston Technique®. To learn more about this non-invasive, patented technique, continue reading.

What is the Graston Technique?

The Graston Technique is an evidence-based form of manual therapy known as instrument-assisted soft-tissue mobilization (IASTM). Typical manual therapy uses hands to massage and manipulates soft tissue. However, as its name suggests, instrument-assisted soft-tissue mobilization uses a handheld instrument in the place of hands to penetrate deeper into the tissue.

The idea behind the Graston Technique is rooted in the works of Dr. James Cyriax, an English orthopedic surgeon who developed this type of tissue massage as a non-surgical option for patients suffering from soft tissue injuries.

What Instruments are Used in the Graston Technique?

The 6 core Graston Technique instruments are constructed of stainless steel, and vary in size and shape. Graston instruments are concave and convex-shaped, with multiple angles and rounded edges so as to not tug on the skin.

As soft tissue is dispersed all over the body, Graston instruments have been specifically designed to enhance a doctor's ability to detect adhesions, scar tissue, and restrictions within an affected area. Once tissue has been identified, the instrument is then used to non-invasively penetrate tissue and break apart restrictions.

How is the Graston Technique Performed?

During the Graston Technique, an instrument is combed across the skin to detect injured soft tissue. During this process, the instrument will pick up on what's known as fibrotic tissue - tissue that's composed of irregularly patterned fibers. Tissue like this typically forms as a result of trauma, in the form of scar tissue or adhesions, abnormal connective tissue. This tissue contains collagen cross-links that limit mobility and function and often result in pain.

Once your doctor has identified the problematic tissue, the instrument is then used to break it apart. This motion is known as a cross-friction massage. Essentially, the Graston instrument is repeatedly rubbed across the surface of the skin, against the grain of the scar tissue. The purpose of this is to re-introduce small amounts of trauma to the affected area in order to increase blood flow in and around the area, as well as disperse fibrous tissue.

It is common to experience minor discomfort as well as redness during this process - this is a normal reaction and is part of the healing process, as blood rushes to the injured site.

What are the Goals of the Graston Technique?

The goals of the Graston Technique are to effectively detect and treat scar tissue, as well as soft tissue restrictions that affect normal function. The Graston Technique also aims to stretch connective tissue in order to effectively rearrange the structure of the soft tissue being treated - a process that is similar to typical massage therapy.

This technique offers multiple benefits, such as:

  • Faster recovery time
  • Reduced treatment time
  • Reduced inflammation
  • Increased range of motion
  • Relieved muscle tension
  • Reduced scar tissue and adhesions
  • Alleviated pain

The Graston Technique has quickly spread throughout universities and hospital-based outpatient facilities and is also being used by major sports teams such as the NBA, NHL, NFL, and Major League Baseball trainers.

Am I a Candidate for the Graston Technique?

In our offices, we recommend the Graston Technique to patients suffering injuries such as:

  • Muscle strains
  • Muscle sprains
  • Whiplash
  • Torn ligaments
  • Sports impact injures
  • Torn tendons
  • Scar tissue after surgery

Make an appointment to experience the Graston technique at an office near you:

About the Author:
Dr. Sean Driscoll
Born and raised in Olean, NY, Dr. Sean Driscoll relocated to Florida 12 years ago. Dr. Driscoll majored in Athletic Training Sports Medicine at The University of Florida, and received his Doctor of Chiropractic from Palmer College of Chiropractic. He has been treating patients with manual therapy for over 10 years and feels privileged to share the healing benefits of chiropractic with the people of South Florida.
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