Treating soft tissue injuries with the Graston Technique

Injuries in tendons, ligaments and muscles are common. What many people may not know is that during the healing process, scar tissue and adhesions can occur resulting in noticeably stiff and bumpy tissue that doesn’t move the way healthy tissue normally does. The result is a condition that causes limited range of motion and sometimes severe pain.

The Graston Technique was developed to loosen and break up scar tissue and adhesions. It uses a set of six individually designed tools that help identify areas of restricted movement and also work to alleviate tightness associated with soft tissue injuries.

A variety of practitioners uses the Graston Technique: from chiropractors and osteopaths to physical therapists and athletic trainers. The Graston Technique is used widely by professional sports trainers, and it’s likely that your favorite professional sports team uses it extensively.

What is scar tissue?

Just underneath the skin is soft connective tissue known as fascia. It is a sheet of tissue that connects parts of the body including nerves, muscles, bones and blood vessels.

After a soft tissue injury, the tissue eventually repairs itself naturally, but it does so in a random fashion, causing scar tissue. Scar tissue itself is not painful, but it restricts flexibility and range of motion in the affected area and can exacerbate ongoing pain, soreness, and tightness.

What are the benefits of the Graston Technique?

The goals of the Graston Technique are to reduce pain and increase function by breaking down scar tissue in the injured area and lessening restrictions caused by trauma such as a strained muscle or pulled tendon or ligament. It also aims to reduce restrictions by helping to stretch connective tissue and rearrange the scar tissue.

The Graston Technique is used to treat a variety of conditions including:

Golfer’s elbow
Tennis elbow
Achilles tendonitis
Plantar fasciitis
Rotator cuff tendinitis
Back pain
Neck pain
Knee pain
Fibromyalgia
Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

How does the Graston Technique work?

The Graston Technique is a form of instrument-assisted, soft tissue mobilization therapy. Providers use six specially designed stainless steel tools to identify and treat areas of soft tissue damage. The tools are very dense and have rounded edges. They are not sharp nor do they penetrate or puncture the skin. Once the clinician has identified the areas of soft tissue damage, they use the tools to manipulate that soft tissue with the instruments.

The Graston Technique uses a cross-friction massage that rubs and brushes against the grain of the scar tissue. The massage creates a brief period of inflammation in the injured area and promotes blood flow, which helps support the natural healing process of the soft tissue area being treated, by breaking up scar tissue and smoothing the tissue underneath.

What to expect from Graston Technique treatments

Graston Technique treatments are typically given one to two times per week for approximately four to five weeks. For more chronic injuries, additional treatments may be given. Ultimately the treatment duration varies by injury. Acute injuries tend to recover and heal quicker.

Before treatments, patients are asked to warm up with a brief exercise. The use of the instruments lasts for approximately 10 minutes. After that, patients may be asked to stretch or perform a series of strengthening exercises. The Graston Technique is not painful, but it can cause the type of temporary discomfort that occurs during manual therapy. It can also create some bruising, which is normal.

It is important to know that not everyone who has a soft tissue injury is a good candidate for the treatment. Those with high blood pressure or taking blood thinners are not good candidates. Individuals who are pregnant or have severe fractures or cancer are similarly not good candidates.

If you have a soft tissue injury, ask your provider if you would benefit from the Graston Technique.

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