Understanding the Graston Technique, How It Works, and Who It Helps
There are more than 15,000 clinicians who practice the Graston Technique around the world. Did you know that even professional athletes use this technique to help with their muscle recovery? The San Antonio Spurs and Texas A&M University are a few teams that use this technique.
The Graston Technique includes tools that are used to help break down soft tissue and aid in your muscle recovery. Tense or sore muscles can be debilitating and if not treated properly, can result in permanent damage.
You might not be aware of the Graston Technique or what it can be used for. In this article, we give you an inside look into what the technique is, what the tools are, and how this non-invasive, natural massage technique can help heal your muscles faster.
What is the Graston Technique?
According to Spine-health, the Graston Technique is a form of manual therapy known as soft-tissue instrument-assisted mobilization. It is one of the many techniques that uses tools to help break down scar tissue.
This technique is often done by chiropractors, physiotherapists, athletic trainers, sports massage therapists, and more. The tools used in the technique help the therapist find problems and heal the muscles faster. This technique is beneficial in breaking up fascial restrictions and scar tissue adhesions, as well as detecting areas of chronic inflammation and/or fibrosis.
Qualified sports massage therapists often use this technique on clients who do a lot of training or have suffered severe trauma to a muscle group. Their clients often see tremendous results and walk away feeling less pain, in addition to having a better range of motion.
A 2017 study tested the therapeutic effectiveness of IASTM (a treatment similar to Graston that uses tools to help find and treat soft tissue damage). Patients in the study who had sustained an injury to their patellar tendon improved 23-44% with 5 sessions over a 4 week period.
What is the Graston tool and how does it work?
There are six core tools that are used during this technique. The tools are made from stainless steel which makes it easy to clean and sterilize them. The tools are concave and convex- shaped. The shape of the tool is important because it allows the therapist to almost mold the tool around the muscle that is injured. The edges are rounded and not sharp so that the patient does not get hurt.
The instruments are used to scan over as well as to detect areas of injured fibrotic tissue. The professional will apply more pressure towards the heart as this will help increase blood flow to the area of concern. The stainless steel also feels cold at the beginning which is good because the cold will help to bring down any inflammation that might be caused during the treatment.
How did this technique come about?
The Graston Technique was invented by an athlete by the name of David Graston. His journey began when he was unable to recover fully from a knee injury he got when he was water skiing. During his downtime, he started to think about normal manual massage style therapy in regards to his own knowledge of tools. He then decided to design a set of tools that would assist in his rehab. The concept behind this was derived from the cross-friction technique, which was designed by orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Cyriax. From there, the Graston Technique was born. and is now used by thousands of people around the world.
What is the Graston Technique massage?
The massage begins with the patient lying on the treatment bed. The tools will be gently brushed against the area of concern to find knots in the muscles that are causing the problem. The therapist will then use a cross-friction massage technique that involves brushing or rubbing against the direction of the muscle fiber or the scar tissue. The aim is to reintroduce small amounts of trauma to the muscle of concern. This is not done to harm the patient. Instead, the trauma will allow the therapist to break down the scar tissue so that the muscle can heal correctly.
This technique can cause temporary inflammation in the area of concern. You might also get a few superficial bruises. This will increase the blow flow in and around the area. The theory is that this process will help initiate and promote the healing process of the affected soft tissues.
Even if you go in to have your back treated, you may also get your hip flexors, hamstrings, shoulders, and other regions treated as well. This is because the technique is rendered along the kinetic chain. This means that any part of your body that is connected to the pain through the fascial network will be treated as well.
The massage can be between 30-90 minutes depending on what the issue is and how much work needs to be done on the area. Keep in mind that you might feel a bit tender after the treatment. This is normal. Go home and apply some heat to the area. Once the muscle calms down from the trauma, your muscles will relax and feel a lot better.
Who Graston Therapy Can Help
Who will benefit from Graston therapy?
At the end of the day, most people can benefit in one way or another from the Graston Technique. It is used to help treat injuries that are caused by trauma to the muscle. You can cause trauma to a muscle by exercising when you are not warmed up, from an accident, after surgery and more.
If you stay in one position for too long during the day, your muscles begin to get stiff and can cause pain and discomfort. The Graston Technique will help relieve the pain quickly. There are several advantages to the patient from using the Graston Technique, including:
- Decreased treatment time
- Faster muscle rehabilitation
- Less need to ingest anti-inflammatory medication
- Possible resolution of chronic conditions such as chronic pain
A 2020 study tested how effective the Graston Technique is. Patients who had the Graston massage saw significant improvement when they combined the massage with physical exercise. When combined, exercise and the Graston Technique showed good results for patients who were recovering from traumatic injuries, muscle strains, and spinal or back pain.
What can Graston therapy treat?
Even though the Graston Technique has only become popular in the last couple of years, it has been clinically proven to achieve results in conditions such as, but not limited to:
- Neck pain
- Muscle sprains
- Muscle strains
- Achilles tendinosis
- Achilles tendinitis
- Tennis elbow
- Golfer’s elbow
- Plantar fasciitis
- Shoulder pain
- Post-surgical scar tissue
- Shin splints
- Trigger finger
A pilot study was done in 2006 to study the effect of the Graston Technique on people who suffer from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. The study found that there was an improvement in nerve conduction and wrist strength as well as wrist motion. The patients found that the improvements were maintained even 3 months after the treatments were completed.
Therapists and medical professionals use this technique to help their bodies deal with the muscle trauma and strain that their jobs put on their body. People in all different types of professions turn to the Graston Technique to help reduce their recovery time. Treatment will result in less time that you’re unable to work, as well as other lifestyle improvements. Less pain means that you will be able to do your job better and not have to worry about your muscle aches slowing you down at work or in life.
The Graston Technique is used by many athletes, including Noemy Clayborn, 24-time Marathon Finisher and Ultra-Runner. She said of the technique, “Even though the stainless steel tools look unusual, the Graston Technique has brought me much relief. GT breaks up scar tissue fibers and smoothes the tissue underneath. It has increased my range of motion and decreased the inflammation and pain that I’ve experienced. GT has sped up the recovery time for every one of my injuries.”
The Graston Technique has a lot of benefits for the patient. Chronic pain limits you in your daily activities; by going for regular treatments, you will be able to look after your muscles holistically. You’ll walk away feeling a bit tender, but knowing that your muscles will recover more quickly.
Tips to keep in mind
- The Graston Technique should work fairly quickly. If after 6 sessions you still feel the same pain, you need to go seek medical help, as there could be something else going on.
- Drink water after your session to help hydrate your body so that it can get rid of toxins that were built up during your session.
- Heat on the treated muscles will help get rid of the tender feeling, and help your muscles recover faster.
- You are breaking down scar tissue during the treatment, so a bit of discomfort is normal. If you feel extreme pain, pins and needles or numbness during the session, you need to let the professional know right away.
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