The Graston Technique

Manipulative therapies are treatments that involve the hands of a healthcare practitioner, or machines, to heal soft tissue injuries. While physical therapy and medications have their place in orthopedic medicine, manual therapists such as chiropractors and osteopathic physicians believe that the true healing process may not really begin until the body is brought back into alignment. Chiropractors bring the body back into alignment using fast, powerful thrusts to pop certain joints back into place. The Graston technique is another type of treatment that involves the use of certain instruments to ease the joints back into their proper position. This technique is also known as soft-tissue instrument-assisted mobilization.

The instruments used in this type of manual therapy move against the skin to help the therapist identify areas of restriction and scar tissue. The instruments push against the skin to affect the soft tissues below it. The instruments may break up areas of scar tissue formation as they move against the skin and massage the body.

Therapists that may use this treatment and associated instruments include occupational therapists, physical therapists, osteopaths, and chiropractors. Some athletic trainers and massage therapists may also be certified in these techniques and procedures.

The overall goal of this soft tissue manual therapy is to relieve pain and restore function to that part of the body. Function and comfort may be restored as the soft tissue injuries are repaired, areas of tension and tightness are broken up, and scar tissue is broken down. There are three treatment goals that the therapist is trying to accomplish:
  1. The breakdown of scar tissue and fascia restrictions. Scar tissue development and fascia restrictions may linger I the soft tissues long after certain injuries should have fully healed. Injuries that may cause these soft tissue problems include muscle strains and pulled ligaments, tendons, and fascia.
  2. Gently stretching the soft tissue by stretching them.
  3. Encouraging a better healing environment for soft tissues that have been traumatized or become thrown out of alignment.
When patients are given manual mobilization treatments through the hands of the therapist, or instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM), a person's physical health may be positively affected in multiple ways. There appears to be neurologic benefits as well as direct physical benefits to the injured tissues. When these manual and instrument assisted treatments are applied, certain nerve fibers are activated. In addition, the body's position sense organs, such as proprioceptors and mechanoreceptors, seem to respond to these tissue mobilization treatments.

The soft tissues of the back responsible for its movements and sensations include the tendons, ligaments, fascia, and muscles. Injuries to any of these tissues may cause dysfunction in the back, in terms of limitations in movement and pain levels. Injuries such as muscle strains and ligament sprains may cause debilitating pain and limitation of movement.

Benefits of the Graston Technique: the Graston technique is designed to accelerate the rates of recovery and complement the treatment results of other complementary therapies. If effective, this therapy should decrease overall treatment time. This treatment should eliminate the prospect of patients suffering from chronic pain conditions that were once thought to be manageable but not curable.

How the Graston Technique Works: This treatment involves the use of hand-held instruments that the practitioner uses to move over the patient's body to identify areas of tissue restriction. When areas of restriction or scar tissue development are identified, the instruments will be rubbed over the skin to stretch it and break it up.

The Graston Technique makes use of 6 core tools. All six tools are mad of stainless steel, with smooth concave or convex shaped with will directly contact the patient's skin. The tools serve the diagnostic purpose of identifying areas of injured fibrotic tissue. These same tools are used to treat the injured tissues, using a method known as cross-friction massage. Cross-friction massage involves the movements of these tools against the grain of the scar tissue, to increase blood flow around the area.