Graston Technique: Used for Recovery & Rehab!

By: Justen Lopez, MS, ATC/L, PES, GTS

Graston Technique is a specific brand of instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization devices used to treat soft tissue injuries or fascial restrictions, as well as help assess the kinetic chain and various pathologies. Composed of stainless steel and designed with unique treatment edges and angles, Graston instruments allow the clinician to sweep through a particular area to help restore movement and function in addition to helping with the healing process. These instruments have a wide range of conditions and injuries that they can treat for people of varying levels of activity.

When thinking about who needs treatments such as Graston Technique, one usually thinks of athletes and the active population. Graston Technique has many benefits for people within this population from assisting with maintaining functional motion to rehabbing injuries. Many Certified Athletic Trainers and Doctors of Physical Therapy utilize Graston Technique in the preparation, treatment, and recovery of their physically active patients, and it can be a great supplementation to therapeutic exercises and other manual techniques.

You do not need to be an athlete to be able to benefit from Graston Technique. Regardless of lifestyle, everyone ends up dealing with some sort of soft tissue issue at some point in their life. Whether it is tightness from sitting at a desk all day, that long term injury you never saw someone about and learned to live with, or excessive typing at work, fascial restrictions can occur, limiting range of motion and function. The Graston Technique Specialists can use the instruments to loosen up those fascial connections, improving range of motion and function.

The instruments work by using the specifically designed treatment edges and angles to glide across the skin, feeling for a variety of signs in the tissue, such as tissue density, the presence of myofascial adhesions, or scar tissue. The mild to moderate pressure of the instruments compress and then stretch the tissue repeatedly, which over time can lead to several physiological changes. While originally derived from the ancient Chinese healing technique of Gua Sha, Graston Technique has a firm foundation in evidence-based medicine. Research studies have shown that Graston Technique can help separate and break down collagen cross-links (ie. scar tissue and fascial adhesions), inhibit abnormal muscle tone (muscle guarding), modify neural sensitivity and input, help with angiogenesis to an area (stimulation of new blood vessels and localized blood flow), and increase cellular activity in the tissue (recruiting fibroblasts and mast cells for proper healing).

In order to effectively treat a particular condition, healthcare professionals need to complete the Graston Technique Basic course, while some go on to complete the Advanced course and become Graston Technique Specialists. Through these courses, clinicians learn a variety of treatment strokes, sequencing of those strokes, how to integrate Graston Technique with therapeutic exercise and stretching, indications and contraindications, and the variety of conditions that may benefit from this type of treatment.

Graston Technique can be used to treat a whole host of injuries, including tennis or golfers elbow, Achilles tendonopathy, patellar tendonopathy, sprains and strains, cervicogenic or tension headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, plantar fasciitis, rotator cuff tendonopathy, and back pain, and many more. Most people are able to pick out at least a couple of conditions from this list that they have experienced before. Through a combination of Graston Technique and therapeutic exercise, pain from these conditions can be reduced and motion restored. In the clinic, we often see these injuries from the gym, soccer, basketball, cycling/spinning, tennis, golf, and baseball, from professional athletes to the weekend warrior to the less active population. Regardless of how it happened, it needs to be evaluated and treated so that you can get back to performing at a more effective, pain-free level.

At ProClinix Sports Physical Therapy, our Physical Therapists, Certified Athletic Trainers, and Chiropractors utilize instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization in concert with other manual techniques and exercises in treating our patients. Benefits of Graston Technique can be experienced with routine maintenance, acute injury, or that chronic issue you have been putting off dealing with in hopes of it going away on its own, so come get evaluated by one of our practitioners today!

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