By Laura L. Jacobs, DPT
Have you ever had a nagging ache, pain, or tightness that hangs around too long and keeps you from enjoying life? Physical therapists use many different techniques and tools to help people return to normal pain-free function: Land or aquatic exercises, manual techniques, and modalities such as ultrasound, laser, and electrical stimulation can all be part of a treatment plan. While many approaches are familiar to most people, not too many have heard of the Graston Technique.
Graston is a type of instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization that improves range of motion while reducing pain, leading to a return to normal function. The Graston Technique utilizes stainless steel instruments to address fascial restrictions and soft tissue lesions, also known as stubborn injuries, and can help break down and realign scar tissue. It has been shown to increase blood flow and trigger your body’s natural healing response. When normal, healthy tissue is damaged, the body often heals it in a haphazard manner, leading to restricted movement and pain. These are the areas where the Graston Technique can be beneficial.
You may be wondering why tools that look like knives would be a good idea to treat pain or motion restrictions. Basically it means the therapist uses instruments to perform soft tissue work instead of their hands. This “technique has been proven through research and in the clinical setting to be very effective. I have been using the Graston Technique in my practice for about six years and have used it to successfully to treat a widespread of conditions, including plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, tennis elbow, and lower back pain.
The instruments help keep the therapist’s hands injury-free while setting patients on the path to healing. These instruments allow the therapist to detect things they normally wouldn’t be able to feel with just their hands, such as the vibration and texture changes in the underlying tissue. It’s a great technique because the patient can be involved. During treatment, patients are able to feel a grittiness in injured areas, and over multiple treatment sessions they are able to feel how it changes and smooths out. While undergoing treatment, patients are allowed and encouraged to keep performing normal activities as long as they are performed without pain.
There has been a lot of research performed on the Graston Technique that shows positive outcomes in the majority of all conditions treated when performed correctly and with good compliance from the patient. The technique sometimes gets a bad reputation for being painful and causing post-treatment bruising. Occasionally this occurs, but treatment can be adjusted to minimize this. If you have ever had a deep tissue or sports massage, you might have been a little sore or tender the next day. Graston is the same way.
Where on the body can you use the Graston Technique? I get asked that question often and my answer is “Pretty much anywhere!” The most common applications are for neck pain, shoulder pain, tennis elbow, carpal tunnel syndrome, lower back pain, hip pain, IT Band (iliotibial band), knee pain (such as runner’s knee or jumper’s knee), shin splints, ankle pain, and foot pain. It can also be used on old scars resulting from a knee replacement or a C-section. It doesn’t matter how old or new the injury is, treatment can be adjusted to aid in your rehabilitation.
One of the best features of this technique is that it can be used on all people of all ages and at all activity levels. Whether your goal is to run a marathon or play with your grandkids, there is a great chance this technique will get you back to living life the way you want to!
Laura L. Jacobs, DPT
Fyzical Therapy & Balance Centers
Laura L. Jacobs, DPT attended Duquesne University and graduated in 2011 with a doctorate in Physical Therapy. She has specialized in outpatient orthopedic physical therapy over the last 8 years. She is also certified in the Graston technique for soft tissue mobilization and works with patients with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. She takes pride in improving the quality of life of her patients through her treatment techniques. When not at the clinic working with patients, Laura loves road and trail running, hiking with her dog and husband and spending time outdoors. Contact her at (717) 591-3000, or firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more visit www.fyzical.com/mechanicsburg.
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