The Graston Technique: Scraping Away Your Back Pain

The Graston Technique: Scraping Away Your Back Pain


Graston Technique is a different type of soft tissue mobilization that utilizes instruments. It can break up adhesions, stimulate circulation, and help the body heal. Physical therapists and chiropractors are now using it as a form of manual therapy. This article will explain the basics of Graston Technique and how it could help those with back pain.

What is the Graston Technique?

Graston Technique is a type of soft tissue therapy crafted by James Graston, an athlete, chiropractor, and former instrument maker. This system focuses on reducing pain of muscles, ligaments, and tendons. It uses stainless steel instruments to detect and break down adhesions and scar tissue that can cause pain and weak mobility.

This practice mixes massage strokes with the stainless steel instruments. Its goal is fast healing and short time in physical therapy. It helps with issues like lower back pain, shoulder stiffness, sciatica, shin splints, plantar fasciitis or carpal tunnel syndrome. Practitioners are trained to detect joint restrictions or laxity that adds to physical pain or movement problems through active isolated stretching (AIS). The technique also assists with other treatments like therapeutic massage or myofascial release (MFR).

Benefits of the Graston Technique

The Graston Technique is a manual therapy used by physical and occupational therapists, as well as chiropractors. It uses special stainless steel tools to find and break up scar tissue and provide contrast. This helps patients recover from soft tissue damage, caused by injury, illness, or overuse.

It can help athletes too! Benefits include:

  • Reducing pain from tissue injuries
  • Stiffness in joints
  • Improving motion
  • Reducing muscle soreness
  • Speeding recovery
  • Boosting circulation and performance

The technique releases tight fascia (connective tissue) and scar tissue adhesions that cause discomfort. It also reduces inflammation, swelling and toxins. Lastly, it helps restore strength and flexibility with manual strokes on tendons or ligaments.

How Does It Work?

Graston Technique is a physical therapy used to treat pain of muscles and bones. It works by using instruments on skin to massage, loosen, and break up scar tissue. By doing this, inflammation and pain decrease, which increases range of movement and mobility.

Let’s look further into how the Graston Technique works!

Types of Instruments Used

Graston Technique® uses stainless steel or titanium instruments to detect, diagnose and treat scar tissue. Certified providers use five tools which vary in size, shape, and length. The curved and beveled tools create a “micro-massage” effect for improved blood flow and healing.

The five tools are:

  • GTFI: Banana-shaped, 11 inches long x 1 inch wide, large convex body – used for larger muscle areas like lower extremities.
  • GTNI: 9 1/4 inches long x 1 inch wide, “notched” handle – for angular body surfaces such as arms or legs, and bony prominences of hands and feet.
  • GTXI: 10 inches long x 7/8 inch wide, double-ended – two “fingerprint indentations” to mimic the physician’s thumb for smaller muscle groups near joints and tendons.
  • ATI: 8 3/4 inches long x 7/8 inches wide, angled tip – for curved surfaces including thoracic spine, ribs, medial part of upper arm or back of thigh muscle group.
  • FTM™: 9 1/2 inches long x 7/8 inches thick, 25 isotropically arranged facets – for fascial mobility and soft tissue extensibility. Compact to get under scapulae regions & powerful to improve structural alignment.

Process of the Technique

Graston Technique is a form of manual therapy. It uses stainless steel instruments to find, identify and cure dysfunctional areas. First, the practitioner uses their hands to feel the area and test for looseness or restriction. Tools are then used to detect any abnormal tissue texture and scarring. These ‘knots’ can pull bones out of alignment and restrict joint movement.

Six methods are used to tackle each restriction –

  • longitudinal effleurage,
  • cross-fiber massage,
  • feeling,
  • compression,
  • skin rolling and
  • vibration.

The tools used are all made from medical grade stainless steel. They are different shapes and sizes. They ‘scrape’ away scars and allow the practitioner to control the manipulations.

The practitioner applies gentle pressure with the tools. This can cause some discomfort, depending on how deep into the tissue they go or how close they are to the bones. The Graston Technique does not use force that causes pain.

Who Can Benefit from the Graston Technique?

The Graston Technique is a form of manual therapy that utilizes stainless steel instruments for diagnosis and treatment of soft tissue injuries. It can be used to help with various musculoskeletal issues, like lower back pain, neck pain, and tendinitis. This method of manual therapy decreases pain and accelerates healing. Nowadays, many physiotherapists, chiropractors, and massage therapists use it.

Let’s take a look at some conditions the Graston Technique can assist with:

Common Conditions Treated

Graston Technique is a form of IASTM (instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization). It breaks down scar tissue and restrictions in muscles and connective tissue. It uses patented stainless steel instruments and a comprehensive treatment program. This technique aids common musculoskeletal issues such as tendonitis, sprains, and strains.

It can treat many conditions throughout the body, especially lower back pain. Other conditions include:

  • Neck pain
  • Rotator cuff injuries
  • Knee pain
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Shoulder pain/headaches
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Sciatica/piriformis syndrome
  • Sacroiliac dysfunction/pelvic instability

This treatment helps pre and post surgical patients. It also assists with post-surgical recovery times.

What to Expect During Treatment

The Graston Technique is a manual therapy used by chiropractors, physical therapists, osteopaths, and other healthcare professionals. It uses special instruments to detect tension and inflammation in muscles, tendons, and ligaments. These instruments come in various shapes and sizes for different strokes.

During treatment, your practitioner applies deep pressure with the instruments. Heat or cold application may be added before or after manual manipulation. Ultrasound imaging can be used to visualize any scar tissue. Treatments are usually once a week for 6-8 weeks. Discuss your expectations with your practitioner before beginning treatments.

Risks and Side Effects

The Graston Technique is a physical therapy that utilizes stainless steel instruments to massage and scrape away hard muscles and soft tissue. This can result in lessened or removed pain. However, as with any medical process, there are risks and side effects associated with the Graston Technique.

We shall explore the potential risks and side effects of this therapy:

Possible Side Effects

The Graston Technique is a therapy system for injuries. Special stainless steel instruments are used to break down scar tissue and fascial adhesions.

There are risks and side effects. Soreness, bruising, and redness can follow treatment. The instruments may cause minor scratching. More serious side effects include nerve damage, ligament damage, muscle trauma, infection, and joint instability.

Pain from the technique should be mild. Ice or warm compresses can help. If pain or swelling increases, contact a healthcare provider.

When to Avoid the Graston Technique

The Graston Technique should not be used if a person has cysts, open wounds, advanced osteoporosis, acute swellings or fractures. It may cause temporary discomfort or bruising. Those with a history of bleeding disorders should consult their physician first.

It could injure soft tissues and limit range of motion if used incorrectly. Hot packs should not be used. Unless the doctor is performing it, permission from them is recommended. Those taking long-term anti-coagulant medications should get clearance from the doctor first. Pregnant women and those who’ve had TENS applied to their back should use extreme caution before choosing the Graston Technique.


Reviewing the evidence, we can see that the Graston Technique is a secure, efficient way to reduce or end back pain. It works by scraping the skin to break down fibrous adhesions that form near muscles and ligaments. This can decrease discomfort, better range of motion, and aid in healing.

It is important to know that not all back pain cases are suitable for this treatment. So, consulting a medical pro is always advisable.

Summary of the Graston Technique

The Graston Technique is a manual therapy used to treat musculoskeletal issues, sports injuries, strain, and tendonitis. It relieves pain and increases range of motion. This is done by ‘scraping’ with specialised instruments called Graston tools. The therapist must be trained in the technique to use it correctly. The effects are felt soon after treatment, but it may take 4 weeks for full healing.

In short, The Graston Technique helps

  • reduce pain from muscular problems,
  • enhance range of motion, and
  • improve muscle functionality.

These positive outcomes are often achieved without any drugs or surgery thanks to skilled treatments.

Resources for Further Information

The Graston Technique could be the answer to long-term chronic pain. It helps break down fascial restrictions with metal tools, allowing the body to heal itself. It is typically administered by chiropractors, physical therapists, and massage physicians who have had specialized training.

If you think this technique is right for you, consult your doctor for local referrals. There are plenty of resources online to get more information on the Graston Technique, including videos and articles. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapists (AAOMPT) also has a list of practitioners.

Make sure to do your own research before committing to anything. You should look for information from trusted sources to ensure the treatment path is suitable for your individual needs and lifestyle.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the Graston Technique?

The Graston Technique is a form of soft tissue mobilization that uses specialized instruments to detect and treat scar tissue, fibrosis, and other restrictions in the muscles and connective tissue.

2. How does the Graston Technique help with back pain?

The Graston Technique can help relieve back pain by breaking down scar tissue and other restrictions in the muscles and connective tissue. This can improve range of motion, reduce inflammation, and promote faster healing.

3. Is the Graston Technique painful?

The Graston Technique can be uncomfortable, but it should not be painful. Your therapist will adjust the pressure and intensity of the treatment to ensure that it is effective but also comfortable for you.

4. How long does a Graston Technique session last?

A Graston Technique session typically lasts between 30 and 60 minutes.

5. How many Graston Technique sessions will I need?

The number of Graston Technique sessions needed will depend on the severity of your condition and your response to treatment. Some patients may only need a few sessions, while others may require ongoing treatment over a longer period of time.

6. Is the Graston Technique covered by insurance?

The Graston Technique is often covered by insurance, but coverage will vary depending on your policy and provider. It is best to check with your insurance company before scheduling any treatments.

the back recovery program by alex larsson
Jane Smith is a natural health enthusiast on a mission to uncover effective methods for achieving pain-free living. Through her personal journey with chronic back pain, she has become well-versed in holistic approaches such as yoga, Pilates, and essential oils.

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