As soon as a PT takes out Graston tools, a patient's first reaction is, "What is that?" Most people think Graston is a new technique but has actually been around for thousands of years.
Any instrument assisted tool is used to detect soft tissue restriction and break up adhesions. It is also believed to increase blood flow to the muscle. When there is an increase in bloodflow to an area, the blood is able to bring the good stuff and clear out the waste. This also happens when you get a massage.
A study out of Indiana State University compared the change in blood flow between regular massage and Graston. They found both techniques had an increase in blood flow. Each group received only 10 minutes of Graston or regular manual massage. They found that the increase in blood flow peaked 60 minutes after the massage was over. This means that even if you are only on the table for 10 minutes, the effects of Graston or massage will continue to work for an hour after you walk out the door!
Another study looked at how Graston can be beneficial for range of motion restrictions. The subjects in this study all had back pain and were either assigned to a Graston group or a exercise group. Each subject received their treatment for 4 weeks. After the 4 weeks, the Graston group had a significant decrease in their pain and an increase in their lumbar and hip range of motion.
Graston is just one of the many interventions that can help runners improve their soft tissue restrictions and limited range of motion. So next time you see that funny looking tool, don't be afraid, embrace it!
Portillo-Soto A, Ederman L, Demchak T, Peebles C. Comparison of Blood Flow Changes with Soft Tissue Mobilizatiion and Massage Therapy. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 12.2014. 20:932-936
Lee J, Lee D, Oh J. The effect of Graston technique on the pain and range of motion in patients with chronic low back pain. The Journal of Physical Therapy Science. 2016. 28:1852-1855.
Kathleen Leninger, PT, DPT