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Graston Therapy: The Soft Tissue Treatment Every Athlete Needs


Graston therapy is a hot topic in orthopedic and professional sporting circles. This simple therapy – a tool-based massage method – is revolutionizing how soft tissue injuries are treated and rehabilitated. Learn more about this effective therapy and how Graston technique can benefit your health and athletic goals.

What is Graston Therapy?

At its core, Graston therapy is the use of a specialized tool to mobilize and rehabilitate soft tissue. The Graston technique we know today was developed by David Graston, a water skiier who suffered a knee injury. After struggling with poor recover from his injury, David decided to look into new ways of healing his tissues. He developed a manual massage style that incorporated the use of special tools to improve the healing process. This method involved “cross-friction” massage, a technique known for improving soft tissue healing and orthopedic conditions.

Today, Graston is a popular adjunctive therapy to sports rehabilitation and athletic medicine. It is prized by professional NFL, NBA, and MLB sports teams and a favorite natural therapy of orthopedic therapists across the country.

How Does Graston Therapy Work?

During a Graston treatment, a variety of small, smooth, instruments glides over areas of stagnation or restriction. The tools offer both diagnostic information about the area, as well as a therapeutic effect. The treatment is often done near the site of injury but can also be used in nearby areas to open and release the entire muscle chain or region.

Incorporating Graston therapy into your healing regimen can expedite the healing process for injuries and improve the function and mobility of your muscles. Graston accomplishes this in a few ways. As the tool glides along muscle fibers, it breaks up fascial adhesions, old scar tissue, and other areas of stagnation or fibrosis. This allow for increased mobility and free movement of the muscles, tendons, and joints. Increased blood flow in the area also restores the underlying tissues to health. This improves healing and prevents future injury or restrictions.

Gua Sha: Graston’s Early Chinese Roots

The Graston tool is a relatively new instrument in the world of sports medicine, developed only in 1994, but its roots run deep. Graston therapy is a modernize conceptualization of the ancient Chinese medicine practice of gua sha. Gua sha has been practiced as part of the Chinese medical framework for thousands of years.

When performing gua sha therapy, a small rounded spoon or jade tool is used to “scrape” along muscles, joints, acupuncture channels, or other areas to help stimulate healing and rejuvenation. Like Graston, this technique reduces fascial restrictions, circulates fresh blood, removes blockages, and facilitates the healing process. After a gua sha treatment, small red petechia, or splotches, are often seen in the treated area. This is called “sha” or “sand” and marks the old, stagnant blood that was released by the treatment. Sha is not painful and fades after a few days.

Gua sha is often used for aches, pains, injury rehabilitation, asthma, digestion enhancement, and even facial rejuvenation. As Graston therapy’s early predecessor, gua sha remains a useful and beneficial soft tissue treatment along with the modern Graston technique.

Benefits of Graston Therapy

Graston therapy is famous for its use in sports medicine, particularly with soft tissue mobilization and rehabilitation. Professional and amateur athletes turn to Graston to help them recover fully and enhance their capabilities. While its claim to fame is within athletics, Graston therapy has a wide range of benefits and uses.

Faster Recovery Time

Slow-healing injuries can stall your athletic goals and performance. With Graston, you can get back in the game faster and healthier. This simple soft tissue therapy provides expedited healing to muscles, tendons, and joints and prevents further injury down the road.

Pain Relief

Restrictions and stagnation cause pain. By removing adhesions and areas of blockage, we are able to improve free flow and reduce pain, tightness, and discomfort. Over a course of treatment, you can expect great reductions in your soft tissue or joint pain with Graston.

Enhanced Circulation

Graston’s unique diagnosis and treatment of restricted areas not only helps to reduce friction and adhesions, but courses blood throughout the region. Increased blood flow has a great impact on injured tissue, bringing fresh oxygen, nutrients, and nourishment to the inhibited area. This not only affects the desired area, but the body as a whole.

Increased Mobility and Range of Motion

The key goal of Graston therapy is to return the muscles to their original, healthy structure and function. Whether from injury or overuse, muscles, tendons, and joints can become locked or distorted. Graston helps to remove these blockages and enhance total mobility and function.

Is Graston Therapy for Everyone?

Graston therapy has a wide range of uses and is an appropriate method for most people. Athletes and active individuals benefit greatly from this technique, as do those who have suffered from slow-to-heal injuries, chronic pain, post-surgery restriction, or reduced movement. Here are a few of the most commonly treated issues:

  • Neck Pain (Cervical Sprain/Strain)
  • Ankle Pain (Achilles Tendinosis/itis)
  • Wrist Pain (Carpal Tunnel Syndrome)
  • FibromyalgiaHamstring Injuries
  • Hip Pain, Sciatica
  • IT Band (Iliotibial Band)
  • Tennis Elbow (Lateral Epicondylosis/itis)
  • Golfer’s Elbow (Medial
  • Epicondylosis/itis)
  • Back Pain (Lumbar Sprain/Strain)
  • Knee Pain (Patellofemoral Disorders)
  • Heel Pain (Plantar Fasciitis)
  • Shoulder Pain (Rotator Cuff Tendinosis/itis)
  • Scar Tissue
  • Trigger Finger
  • Women’s Health (Post-Mastectomy and Caesarean Scarring)
  • Breast Augmentation scarring, pain, or prevention

Body Builders

Muscle separation is key for bodybuilders, as they work to emphasize their 3-Dimensional look on stage. Graston helps to break up adhesions in the muscle bodies to allow fuller development, while also increasing blood supply to the muscle tissue. This enhances the look of the muscles while also providing stronger pump sensations in the gym.

CrossFit Competitors

CrossFit draws a wide range of physiques to the Muscle Doc Method. Each competitor has varied needs and trouble areas, but a common complaint among these athletes is shoulder injuries. Repetitive movements and injuries cause adhesions throughout the rotator cuff and shoulder girdle. Graston is used to break up these adhesions and improve the range of motion – and therefore enhance performance.

MMA Fighters

MMA fighters are famous for having high stress-impact injuries on tendon attachments and joints. This is due to heavy grappling techniques and submission hold training. Graston combs through muscle fibers to alleviate the tension on these muscles and joints, while also reducing inflammation and increasing mobility. This allows fighters to be more mobile, quick, and agile on the mat.

The Muscle Doc Method Approach to Graston Therapy

Graston therapy has been used as part of the Muscle Doc Method rehabilitation program for years. An influx of professional body builders, CrossFit competitors, and MMA fighters inspired Christopher to take on this unique treatment technique to address the soft tissue injuries of these patients.

In true Muscle Doc Method style, Christopher has combined his experience and understanding of the technique and the functionality of the human body to perfect the Graston technique. He combines the traditional uses of ancient gua sha, the modern Graston adaptation, and his own functional plane movement exercises to fully rehabilitate the troubled area. Acupuncture and other treatment methods may be incorporated for full healing potential. Christopher’s range of holistic treatments and licensed therapeutic approaches set him apart from traditional sports therapists.

Up Your Game with Graston

Graston is one of the nation’s leading sport therapeutic treatments, and with good reason. Over 2/3 of professional sports teams have turned to Graston-trained therapists to heal their high-performing athletes and stay on top. Whether you are a professional athlete, an active amateur, or suffering from chronic or acute pain, Graston therapy can offer you fast, safe, and effective healing.

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