What is the Graston Technique?

One of the most important objectives a physical therapist has when working with a patient is to employ effective methods that will reduce their pain and promote healing. Moderating a patient’s pain levels is one of the key milestones in physical therapy treatment because most patients are able to accomplish more in their PT sessions when they are not experiencing high levels of pain. 

Many physical therapists employ the Graston Technique in order to address painful issues such as muscle spasms and knots, as well as pain stemming from injury to soft tissues.

In this article, we’ll provide a description of the Graston Technique, the tools therapists use in its application, as well as outline some of the injuries that typically show improvement after the application of this form of manual therapy. 

Exploring Graston

The Graston Technique is a type of therapy administered by a physical therapist in order to identify and treat pain emanating from soft tissue structures such as ligaments, muscles, tendons, and fascia. The technique requires the use of specially-designed tools that a physical therapist uses to massage and gently scrape the skin covering painful, injured areas.

The Graston Tools 

The tools used to administer the technique are made from plastic or metal. These tools come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and lengths, and they also have different surface areas (concave, convex, etc.) in order to better conform to different parts of the body. 

Depending upon the nature of a patient’s injury, as well as the Graston tool a therapist decides to use, the therapist will apply a variety of strokes and different levels of pressure to the injured tissue(s) in order to eventually bring about the desired reduction in pain.

A close-up of several specially designed tools used in Graston Technique therapy

Why Graston?

The Graston tools and methods have been found to be very effective in IASTM (instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization).

These manual techniques have been very successful in the treatment (myofascial release) of adhesions between muscles and nearby fascia. They’ve also been shown to decrease painful muscle spasms and knots, as well as improve lymphatic drainage, which in turn helps promote tissue healing. 

More specifically, Graston tools and physical therapy techniques are used to interrupt both the formation of scar tissue and the pain cycle. Breaking down scar tissue and reducing restrictions by stretching connective tissues leads to improvement in both soft tissue flexibility and range of motion.

When patients can move an injured area with less pain, they are able to perform more stretching and strengthening exercises that will eventually return the injured area back to normal function.

Areas of Use — Physical therapists may use the Graston tools and techniques in a variety of areas of the body, including the

  • Upper and lower back
  • Arms
  • Hands
  • Thighs
  • Calves
  • Feet

The Role of Physical Therapy

A therapist’s role first begins with an assessment of a patient’s injured area(s) in order to determine whether using manual therapy techniques with Graston tools could help in the initial phases of the healing process. If so, the therapist will first focus on using the Graston methods to decrease pain levels and improve range of motion.

Once a patient successfully completes this level of treatment, the therapist will then allow them to proceed to the next step. This involves prescribing specific exercises that will continue to improve one’s range of motion, eventually leading to exercises that will help the patient regain their former level of strength in the formerly injured area.

If you have persistent muscles aches or pains, we can help! Don’t suffer in silence. Instead, contact Cawley Physical Therapy & Rehab online or by phone at 570-208-2787 and make an appointment today.