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My take on Graston Technique – potential risks, benefits and why it won’t release fascia

I must preface this by saying I’ve never experienced Graston myself. So this is certainly a biased viewpoint, personally and professionally.

Many times I’m asked what my opinion is on other modalities, and so I offer this up merely as my best guess and personal take on Graston Technique.

I’ve watched videos that describe and demonstrate Graston Techniques, and I’ve also worked with a number of clients that tried it and gave me their feedback. Some loved it, some tried it and didn’t notice a difference in their pain. Some reported bruising, and one client reported a massive inflammatory response around his knee that lasted over a week.

As with any modality, the Practitioner (or in this case clinician) matters a lot.

This is my general sense of why Graston might be beneficial, and why it might pose potential risks.

Why Graston might be beneficial:

I believe the way the tools are used could have a very positive effect (if used gently) on the superficial fascia, and along with that your lymph system. However there’s also potential risk here (see below).

Other possible benefits are stimulating blood flow (which is always a good thing and can aid in healing) and creating brain-body awareness via sensation of specific body parts.

Potential risks:

Since this tool likely only works superficially, there’s definitely a possibility of stimulating lymph without necessarily taking into consideration what might happen if the entire lymph system isn’t ready for a big toxic dump. Ever heard of a “fascia release flu”? This is caused when too much superficial fascia is stimulated, which moves the lymph and causes it to dump a big toxic load into a duct that either isn’t open or hasn’t been prepared for such a giant toxin release…so the toxins are recirculated and…you get sick as a result.

It is my firm opinion that bruising and purposely creating an inflammatory response is NEVER wise. I don’t believe you have to create bruising to heal.

And in fact this is damage your body now has to deal with in addition to the injury you’re trying to heal. On top of that, I don’t see an upside to creating an unnatural inflammatory response. Some people claim it stimulates the body’s healing process. But if your body wasn’t already using an inflammatory response to heal this particular injury – there might be good reason for that, no?

Why Graston will never release fascia at deeper levels:

I’ve been working with fascia (and people in pain) since 2008 and those deep layers of fascia need to be released with a LOT of safe compression and movement on the part of the client (YOU). I don’t believe you can ever truly release fascia through something passive like Graston. Fascia needs cross friction “shearing” to pull the 360 degree fibers apart from one another. Fascia also responds best when it’s recruited to change itself.

With really aggressive use of a Graston tool (hey it may not be the method but the clinician), I believe it’s possible to create scar tissue and inflammation at the site of use which can give the appearance even through palpation of smoother “connective tissue.” Your pain may even go away, because one of your body’s ways of coping with pain is to create scar tissue or “thicker skin” (calcium deposits, lipomas, bunions etc).

In my opinion there are better ways to address pain that don’t pose the same risks, but I encourage you to do what works for YOUR body. If you love Graston – yay!

5 Comments

  • Patty Goett says:

    Thank you Elisha for respectfully addressing this topic. I’ve tried the Graston Technique and I had a client who swears by it although she has the same issues over and over. I agree that moderate discomfort is a safe range to work in for the client to receive relief from their pain.

  • Jen Kaske says:

    Thanks for this video. I’m a new follower. I’ve suffered with chronic pain throughout my body for over 15 years. Recently diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Tried LOTS of things and recently started using guasha technique on myself (legs). I also started dry brushing. I sometimes foam roll, but find it incredibly painful. So far, the guasha technique seems to do the most for my pain. It is painful, but I am in control and can back off. I have some bruising, but nothing intense. I understand what you’re saying about scar tissue, etc. What do you recommend instead? Please keep in mind that I have no health insurance and have exhausted all financial resources in pursuit of a pain free life. I also avoid inflammatory foods such as gluten, dairy, and processed sugar. I take a tbsp of cod liver oil 2× a day, take curamin supplement, drink ginger tea (from real ginger), switched from coffee to matcha powder with collagen, and drink organic bone broth regularly.
    Thanks for your time!
    :)Jen

    • Hey Jen – the guasha might be ok for that superficial fascia and lymph, but if you’re bruising I would back off until you don’t bruise. My blog and YouTube channel have all kinds of resources for releasing fascia with compression and movement based techniques. I would recommend starting with softer tools for now. Would love to hear any updates if you do try my techniques! Thanks for sharing.
      Elisha

  • Jen, if you are on FB if you join the Mobility Mastery group, you might find others who are dealing with something similar. It’s hard to be on your own not being able to afford health care, but I hope you will find some help with the MM fascia releases. Very inspiring that you changed your diet, I need to do more in that direction. Do also you take organic ACV?

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