Graston Soft Tissue Manipulation

May 16th, 2011

Instrument assisted soft tissue manipulation (IASTM) has been around in some form or another going back as far as ancient Chinese medicine known as Gua Sha.  The premise is to utilize some sort of tool to get to tissue layers that are otherwise inaccessible to the practitioner using only their hands.  Graston® Technique utilizes six specially formed stainless steel instruments to treat a variety of conditions.  To understand more about this treatment you need to know a little bit more about something called fascia.

Fascia is a ubiquitous form of connective tissue that surrounds every square inch of your body from top to bottom and inside out (just ask any person who has been through a course in anatomy, this stuff is everywhere).  It is made up of a network of fibers of collagen that run in parallel with the muscles and other structures that they surround and is rich in a type of cell known as fibroblasts.  These guys are sort of like your body’s construction workers, and when you get injured, they go to work.  Sometimes though, they act a little bit more like the weekend DIYer and less like skilled tradesmen.

When wounds are improperly healed they may lead to increased tension in local fascia, and since your fascia is one continuous sheet, tension in one place can lead to tension at a site and can cause symptoms that may not seem related to the initial injury.  So that may leave you wondering where rubbing your tissues with metal tools can help, well let’s talk about that for a little bit.

If fibroblasts are like construction workers, then there’s a good chance that they occasionally need a foreman to guide them in the right direction and encourage them to do their best work.  The Graston® tools are that foreman.  Current research tends to suggest that fibroblasts that are influenced with the use of IASTM form higher quality elements necessary for wound repair.  Supplementing the treatment with specific exercises also aids in proper alignment and increased strength of newly formed tissue making future problems from your injury like chronic pain, loss of function and re-injury less likely.

What to expect from treatment:

Sessions for Graston® treatment tend to last from 15-20 minutes depending on how many areas need to be treated and typically go as follows.  One or two minutes of high repetition / low-resistance exercises targeting the area that is to be treated followed by 8-10 minutes of treatment using the instruments which will be run over the area of complaint.  Patients tend to feel mild to moderate discomfort during treatment as well as a grinding sensation where there are areas of scar tissue buildup.  Communicating with the doctor about your level of discomfort is very important in avoiding overtreatment and reducing post treatment discomfort, so be sure to stay in touch with them throughout treatment. Following treatment, ice will be applied to the area of treatment to keep any swelling, redness or bruising to a minimum while also reducing pain.

At this point you’re probably saying ” Wait, wait…  Bruising? Pain?  What the heck is going on here”?  Yes, as with most physical medicine there are side effects to the treatment, which tend to be mild and easily controlled with continued icing and other things like Kineso-Tape and BioFreeze.  The bruising is a side effect of breaking up small capillary networks that have been created by the defective tissue and by breaking these connections the tissue is starved of nutrients and gets resorbed by the body and replaced with healthier tissue.

After your treatment, you will be given exercise and stretching instructions to perform at home to ensure that your body heals correctly and increase the benefit that you will receive from treatment.

While some patients do experience substantial relief of their symptoms from one or two Graston® treatments,  typical response ranges between 4-7 visits.  It is important to keep in mind that most chronic injuries and pain develop over a long period of neglect and improper treatment which can take diligence on the behalf of both the patient and the doctor to ensure the best outcome.  So, give us a call if you are looking for a Graston® chiropractor in Denver or visit the Graston® provider locator here, and contact one near you to see if you could benefit from Graston® therapy.

Be well.