Instrument Assisted Soft-Tissue Mobilization or IASTM has been used for thousands of years, originating in Asia, but not becoming popular in conventional therapeutic treatment clinics until the early 2000s. One of the most widely used forms of IASTM is call the Graston Technique. The Graston Technique® is the brain child of an amateur water skier who was frustrated with slow progression and a delayed return to skiing after injury. He began to explore IASTM on his own with self-modified plastic instruments. Seeing significant improvement and developing an interest within his circle, he eventually teamed up with medical and research teams at Ball Memorial Hospital and Ball State University in Muncie, IN to develop the current instruments.
The Graston Technique® stainless steel instruments were designed over 20 years ago to increase soft tissue healing and return athletes to sport faster. Other materials such as plastic and aluminum were trialed, but stainless steel was found to have the best ability to assess and treat soft tissue due to the reverberations felt by the clinician through the instrument. These reverberations usually present in the form of “crunchiness” and direct the clinician to to problem areas. Although they may look a bit intimidating, they are not medieval torture devices.
Graston Technique® has been found to break down scar tissue and promote healing by increasing blood flow to the affected area, which brings the cells that help to build new, healthy tissue. When injured, soft tissue tends to lose its well organized matrix pattern resulting in reduced flexibility and leaving the tissue not as strong as before the injury. Manual therapies such as Graston Technique® separate and breakdown these collagen crosslinks so they can re-organize in a stronger, more aligned pattern.
Will Graston Technique® hurt?
Your physical therapist never wants you to experience more pain than is necessary during treatment! Graston Technique®, like massage and other manual techniques, may cause some soreness and possible bruising, but the goal of Graston Technique® is never to cause bruising. The instruments create a longer lever arm for your therapist, so they actually need to apply less pressure through the instruments than when using her hands.
How does Graston Technique® fit into my current Physical Therapy routine?
If Graston Technique® is recommended by your physical therapist, it can augment or replace the manual techniques you are already receiving. Your physical therapist will use the instruments to assess the tissue, find problem areas, and treat them. Like massage, Graston Technique® is not used by itself; it needs to be followed by stretching and strengthening to restore pain free-range of motion and function.
What diagnoses can Graston Technique® be used on?
Graston Technique® can be used on acute and chronic injuries, including but not limited to the following:
Achilles’ tendinitisCarpal tunnelLateral epicondylitis (tennis elbow)Medial epicondylitis (golfer’s elbow)Patellofemoral syndromePlantar fasciitisRotator cuff tendinitisAdhesive capsulitis (frozen shoulder)Shin splintsTrigger fingerCervicothoracic pain (neck pain)Lumbosacral pain (low back pain)Post-operative scarringPost-surgical conditions (joint replacements, ACL reconstructions, RTC repairs)
Ask your physical therapist about Graston Technique! Therapists at both the Natick and Wellesley clinics are trained providers of Graston Technique®, including Andrew Starsiak, Erin Sargent, Violet Chang, Maggie Webster, Michelle Peterson, Suzanne Berry, and Jeff Reisman.