The Graston Technique: An Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Manual Therapy for Back Pain

The Graston Technique is a form of manual therapy known as soft-tissue instrument-assisted mobilization. It is one of a number of manual therapy approaches that uses instruments with a specialized form of massage/scraping the skin gently.

The therapy is designed to help the practitioner identify areas of restriction and attempt to break up scar tissue.

The Graston Technique is often practiced by chiropractors, osteopathic physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and some licensed massage therapists and athletic trainers.

Graston Technique Goals

The general goals of the therapy are to reduce the patient's pain and increase function through a combination of:

  • Breaking down the scar tissue and fascia restrictions that are usually associated with some form of trauma to the soft tissue (e.g., a strained muscle or a pulled ligament, tendon, or fascia).
  • Reducing restrictions by stretching connective tissue in an attempt to rearrange the structure of the soft tissue being treated (e.g., muscle, fascia, tendons, ligaments).
  • Promoting a better healing environment for the injured soft tissue.
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There also appears to be a neurologic benefit to treating patients with the Graston Technique Instruments. This response is similar to that involved with other manual therapies. The literature suggests that when a patient is given manual or instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) therapy, certain nerve fibers are activated. Additionally, the body's position sense organs, such as mechanoreceptors and proprioceptors, seem to respond to these forms of treatment.

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Potential Benefits of Graston Therapy

Most of the back is comprised of muscles, fascia, ligaments, and tendons. Injuries to these soft tissues play a significant role in the pain and dysfunction associated with back problems. While it may not sound like a serious injury, a simple back muscle strain or torn ligament in the back can cause excruciating pain and difficulty with movement.

The Graston Technique offers several potential advantages to the patient with such an injury:

  • Decreasing overall treatment time
  • Fostering faster rehabilitation/recovery
  • Reducing the need for anti-inflammatory medication
  • Resolving chronic conditions thought to be permanent

The treatment may be used alone or in conjunction with other treatments.

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