The Physical Therapy Graston Technique

Physical therapists utilize a wide variety of techniques to treat patients with all sorts of injuries. The Graston Technique is just one of them, and skilled therapists use it to treat soft tissue conditions, whether they’re temporary, or the result of surgery or an injury. To fully understand the Graston Technique and its value in treating soft tissue conditions, it’s helpful to understand more about soft tissue and its functions.

There’s Soft Tissue Throughout Your Body

All tissue within your body that isn’t part of a bone or an organ is considered soft tissue. That means tendons, ligaments, and even muscles all fall under the heading of soft tissue. Fascia — soft tissue that serves to protect certain structures within your body such as muscles, blood vessels, and nerves — is another example of soft tissue.

As you might imagine, soft tissue injuries are pretty common. People pull or tear tendons and over-tax muscles all the time. Many of these injuries involve significant pain, and one of the best ways to help heal a soft tissue injury involves the intervention of a physical therapist.



The Graston Technique in a Nutshell

When you’re suffering from a soft tissue injury, your number one goal is to relieve pain. But that’s not your only goal. You also want to restore range of motion and mobility so that you can begin to resume your normal activities and get your life back to normal. One of the ways that a skilled physical therapist can help is by using the Graston Technique. Here’s what’s involved …

The Graston Technique involves manual manipulation using specially designed stainless steel instruments. Physical Therapists are trained in how to use these instruments to achieve your main goals of reducing or eliminating pain and restoring range of motion and normal function. The technique is typically used in conjunction with special exercises prescribed by the PT.



The tools are concave and convex to conform to specific parts of the body and have rounded — not sharp — edges. The physical therapist uses these instruments to scan over and detect soft tissue injuries or damage. Once the area(s) to be treated are located, the PT uses a cross-friction massage technique which uses a rubbing or brushing motion across the grain of the tissue. This results in small amounts of trauma to the affected area, which leads to increased blood flow in and around the area, which ultimately speeds healing. As a patient receiving this innovative treatment, there are a couple of things that you should be aware of …

  • Because the technique speeds both the rate and amount of blood flow to the area, you may notice a deepening of the skin color there, the appearance of small red dots, or even some bruising afterward.
  • The Graston Technique follows the kinetic chain, in which certain parts of the body are connected with other parts. What does this mean for you? It explains why at times, the treatment is administered on parts of your body that seem remote from the affected area. Although it may seem strange if your PT manipulates tissue in your shoulder when you have a back injury, rest assured that the areas are connected through the fascial (protective tissue) network within your body!
  • You may feel some mild discomfort during the massage, but the PT typically works on each area for only a minute or so.
  • To avoid further injury, it’s common for your PT to ask you to perform a short series of exercises beforehand to warm up your muscles and tissue. He or she may also use ultrasound therapy to accomplish this.



The Graston Technique is especially useful post-surgery to break up scar tissue fibers and smooth the underlying tissue, but it’s also commonly used to treat common soft tissue conditions like

  • joint pain (wrists, ankles, elbows, knees, shoulders, etc.)
  • back pain caused by sprains and strains
  • shin splints
  • heel pain caused by conditions like Plantar Fasciitis
  • neck pain

and more. The Graston Technique is effective at treating all soft tissue injuries, whether they’re acute or chronic, which makes it a very valuable tool for a physical therapist to use! As you read this, more than 16,000 specialists — including the doctors of physical therapy at Cawley Physical Therapy and Rehab treating patients from all over Northeastern Pennsylvania — have been trained in the Graston Technique. Why not give us a call at 570-208-2787, to learn more and to see if you might be a candidate for this unique and revolutionary form of treatment? (If you prefer, you can also contact us via email at, and we’ll be happy to answer any questions you have about the Graston Technique!)