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What Is the Graston Technique? Is it Dangerous?

The Graston Technique is often used by chiropractors to treat pain in soft tissue below the skin. Learn more about its efficacy, benefits, and possible side effects here.

By GbarrosPublished 5 days ago 7 min read

The Graston Technique is a popular instrument-assisted method chiropractors use to treat pain and improve the quality of life for patients with certain conditions. Developed in the early 1990s by athlete David Graston, he originally designed the procedure to treat a knee injury of his own. Today, the treatment method and massage device it uses have FDA clearance, and it's been catching on in professional chiropractic settings for years.

While Graston originally created the technique to address his knee pain, there are now many more uses for the instrument. From carpel tunnel syndrome to lower back pain, shin splints to plantar fasciitis, and countless other sources of patient concern.

While the method is quite common in chiropractic settings, most clients should familiarize themselves with it before treatment begins. Many have questions regarding what the technique entails, the conditions it can help, and how the process works. Additionally, and perhaps most importantly, patients ask about the benefits of this sort of treatment and whether or not there are risks or side effects involved.

Keep reading to learn more about the Graston Technique and gain valuable insight into how and why it may help ease your pain.

What Is the Graston Technique?

The Graston Technique uses hand-held stainless steel massage instruments that target soft tissue in the body. Chiropractors hold the tools to target the precise pain point and manually manipulate the area based on your needs.

What Happens During the Graston Technique?

Throughout the process, the instruments will gently massage and scrape your skin. These target areas are experiencing restricted movement due to the build-up of scar tissue beneath the skin's surface. These hand-held devices help chiropractors perform massage, controlled pressure, and stroking motions to the needed area. It may be uncomfortable at times, as this reintroduces light trauma to the affected body part, but over time it helps quicken the healing process and reduce pain faster.

The Focus of The Graston Technique

Usually, the type of scar tissue or muscle restriction in the Graston Technique occurs due to trauma to the area or degenerative conditions that develop over time. It works on targeting ligaments, tendons, or fascia. Throughout the course of treatment, the technique stretches the connecting tissues to help properly re-align the structure of the soft tissue. It activates positive surrounding nerve function and blood flow to the area by reaching the connecting fibers, which can also help with healing and pain reduction.

Additional Treatment Techniques

Typically, chiropractors use several tools during the treatment process in addition to the steel massage instrument. Each device is either convex or concave (curved inward or outward) to best reach the precise area of the body. They are different sizes designed to treat large and small areas with an extreme procession. These instruments can help chiropractors identify where the soft tissue fibers are damaged to provide the best treatment.

Additionally, there are often other aspects that chiropractors suggest utilizing in conjunction with this type of therapy. These methods may include applying ice or heat to the area, gentle stretching at home between appointments, and possibly physical therapy based on the severity of the injury. Together, these techniques help restore your body to how you felt before treatment.

If you're an athlete, experience carpel tunnel syndrome, or perform manual labor for work, healing and becoming pain-free is crucial. It can help you get back in the game faster, experience less pain while typing or using repetitive hand and wrist motions, and return to work feeling much better.

What Does the Graston Technique Treat?

If you're wondering if the Graston Technique is right for you, speak with your chiropractor about the treatment method. They will review your specific injury and area of pain to best advise a course of treatment. While the Graston Technique targets soft tissue injuries and trauma, it's not likely to help with bone issues such as breaks or misalignments.

The Graston Technique Can Help Treat Conditions Including:

• Strains and strains in the lower back and lumbar area.

• Carpel tunnel syndrome, which generally affects your fingers, wrist, hands, and arm.

• Achilles tendinosis, a condition where the tendon becomes irritated and inflamed.

• Strains and sprains of the ligaments in the cervical spine. This consists of vertebrae C1-C7, causing neck pain.

• Plantar fasciitis, which is due to inflammation of the thick band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes along the bottom of your feet. This is a common form of heel pain.

• Rotator cuff tendinosis, a shoulder injury you may also hear referred to as tennis shoulder, swimmers shoulder, and pitches shoulder. It's damage to the soft tissue in the shoulder due to extensive use over time.

• Shin splints, which cause pain along the shin bone due to overworked muscles, tendons, and bone tissue.

• Tennis elbow and Golfers elbow, which occur when your forearm tendons, which connect to the boney part of your elbow, become strained. The pain presents on the outside of your elbow and may also affect your forearm and wrist.

• Whiplash most commonly seen in car accident victims.

• Scar tissue resulting from surgery.

• Post-natal pain.

• And more.

The Graston Technique can also treat chronic conditions, including chronic joint pain, fibromyalgia, tendon disorders, and edema (inflammation with excess fluid that gets trapped in a specific area).

Does the Graston Technique Actually Work?

The number one question patients have regarding the Graston Technique is, "does it really work?" Studies published by the National Library of Medicine show that this treatment option offers fast-acting pain reduction in patients, particularly when combined with advised exercise. Most people begin to see results in just 24 hours, with the most drastic changes noted over time.

How Long Does Treatment Take?

You'll likely need more than one treatment session if you suffer from a serious injury or condition. Typically, a course of treatment can last anywhere from six to twelve weeks to see the full results. Your chiropractor will evaluate your progress and pain levels at each appointment to adjust your treatment plan as necessary. The goal of using the Graston Technique is to speed up recovery time, though the process needs to work on the soft tissue to promote full healing continuously.

The duration of each appointment can vary depending on the type of condition you're treating and the area of space that requires treatment. Small areas requiring treatment, such as the wrist and hands may take as little as 15 to 20 minutes. Each visit may be longer if you're addressing a large area of lower back pain or a significant area post-surgery. The variation in appointment time is tailored to your unique needs to best help you find relief.

Benefits from the Graston Technique

What are the benefits of having a chiropractor utilize the Graston Technique on areas presenting with soft tissue pain? Many patients report that after undergoing treatment, they experience less need for using over-the-counter medications to treat pain and inflammation.

Other benefits include a quicker recovery from trauma, injury, and overuse. The method may even permanently eliminate pain resulting from chronic conditions when continued over time. It can decrease post-workout pain, help repair and strengthen muscles, reduce pain, improve function and mobility in the affected area, and enable those with chronic conditions to help manage and relieve associated pain and stiffness.

Is the Graston Technique Dangerous, and What Are the Potential Side Effects?

Before beginning any medical or alternative treatment, it's essential to understand the potential side effects and whether they may pose any danger to your health. You should always speak with your former or current treating physician, whether it's your primary care doctor or a specialist who initially treated your injury. They may recommend seeing a chiropractor and using the Graston Technique from the start as a form of follow-up treatment.

One of the best things about this treatment is that it's entirely non-invasive. This means that there's no penetration of the skin or muscles, and you won't risk post-surgery infection or complications as a result.

Only licensed providers can perform the technique, which often helps put patients' minds at ease. It's highly unlikely that any injury or further damage will occur due to using the Graston Technique, and any side effects will subside fairly quickly.

However, you may see some short-term side effects. Discussing these potential effects with your doctor is important, so you know what to look for and not be alarmed if they occur. It's also important to note that not all patients will experience the same symptoms, which doesn't mean treatment isn't working.

Short-term side effects of the Graston Technique may include:

• Slight bruising in the area post-treatment.

• Redness in the area.

• Soreness.

• A slight increase in inflammation.

You may also experience minor pain while receiving the treatment as the pressure is applied to an injured area.

Overall, the Graston Technique is an excellent chiropractic treatment option if you're experiencing pain or damage in an area with soft tissue. Speak with your chiropractor today to determine if this method may be right for you.


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  • Mike Ploski5 days ago

    If you're gonna write an article about Graston, why include a picture of some cheap knock-off tool? You should post a picture of Graston Instruments.

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