Graston Massage Breaks Up Deep Scar Tissue

A relatively new massage technique gets at stubborn scar tissue buried deep in muscles and joints, returning people to a delightfully pain-free and flexible condition. The technique, called Graston therapy, is usually performed by a massage therapist or chiropractor, and involves the use of specialized tools that look like handlebars, a boomerang and a thick metal tongue depressor. Specialists at Ball State University developed these and other deep-massage tools and the treatments themselves in the early 1990s.

The therapy is typically administered in a series of six sessions, which cost approximately $40 each. The sessions tend to hurt a great deal, even leaving bruises, as the fibrous scar tissue and lactic acid buildup are worked over. But the results can be dramatic.

After having her ever-worsening hip pain treated with the Graston technique, "I'm as flexible now as I was when I was 15," says Kathleen Flach, a longtime distance runner and Ultimate Frisbee competitor, who lives in Tampa, Fla. Graston therapy isn't specifically evaluated by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

 But the agency, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, endorses massage therapy in general as an alternative treatment with low risk that is beneficial in a variety of disorders. "People use massage," the agency says, "for a wide variety of health-related intents: for example, to relieve pain, often from musculoskeletal conditions, but from other conditions as well; rehabilitate sports injuries; reduce stress; increase relaxation; address feelings of anxiety and depression; and aid general wellness."


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