By Dr. Mark Bodnar Bsc, DC, FCCRS(c)

Graston technique, or technically Graston Augmented Soft Tissue Mobilization (GASTM), is a new approach to managing the challenging problem of chronic pain. I know... it seems we are constantly bombarded with advertisements touting the latest and greatest invention. With everything from rock hard ab's without the workout effort to back pain relief in a simple pill, I can understand some skepticism with another "new" technique. It should help if I explain the theory behind GASTM.

When faced with an injury (tissue damage) our body repairs the area by laying down scar tissue. Ideally the scar tissue will repair the injury, effectively binding the torn tissue back together.

Unfortunately, sometimes we re-strain the injured area when the scar tissue is too weak to provide sufficient support. The same area is re-injured and the body starts the process of laying down scar tissue all over again. This process can repeat itself over and over if successive repair attempts fail.

The problem is compounded by our body's initial repair approach. The body lays down weak, random strands of scar tissue all over the injury site, then later as the area resumes it's normal function, the scar tissue strengthens by orienting in-line with the underlying tissue. The initial, irregular scar tissue can adhere to surrounding healthy tissue, creating adhesions that tie everything together into the same bundle of scar tissue. Worse still, our body never goes back and clears the old, unstable scar tissue out of the way. With each injury we are trying to build new scar on the fragments of the last attempt.

The result is often a bulk of scar tissue that is poorly anchored making it too weak to provide the needed support and making it painful with adhesions to the surrounding muscles, nerves and blood vessels or skin. Imagine you have a hole in the bottom of a boat. Your first reaction is to plug the hole as fast a possible, then you can go back and clean up the repair once you're no longer worried about sinking. But, if the initial repair starts to fail before you reach land you throw another patch over the top. After several attempts the patch has become thick and unstable, getting stuck to everything and causing more problems than it's resolving. If you had to fix the boat in my example you would pull it out of the water, remove all of the failed patch attempts, and repair the area properly.  GASTM is the same approach to repair the scar tissue and adhesion problems inside your body.

Using a variety of specialized stainless steel instruments, Graston certified doctors manipulate the area of injury, inducing microtrauma and breaking down the excess scar tissue. Research has shown that Graston technique can break down adhesions, improve superficial circulation and increase the strength of healing tissue by 30% while recreating the normal inflammatory response and stimulating the body to lay down new scar tissue. Treatment combined with the right stretching and strengthening exercises will make sure the new scar tissue is strong and stable without adhering to the surrounding healthy tissue.

While Graston Technique is not a cure all, it is a very effective technique for addressing many chronic pain injuries. In my clinic we have seen great improvements in pain levels and function even with chronic injuries. Everything from whiplash problems that have been dragging on for years, down to ankle or elbow injuries can benefit from this approach. We even have one patient who was able to cancel his carpal tunnel surgery as almost full feeling and strength has returned to his hand after completely a course of GASTM.

If you are interested in learning more or exploring treatment options with a certified Graston Technique provider, contact the clinic at 902 835-6865 to make an appointment with Dr. Bodnar or Massage therapist Dawn Evong.

Bedford Chiropractic, based in Bedford, Nova Scotia, offers full-service consultations, diagnosis and treatment plans for a variety of workplace, repetitive and other injuries. We treat pain to the head, neck, jaw, arm, shoulders, upper body, chest, lower back, legs and feet.  Contact us today at 902 835-6865. We serve patients in the Halifax Regional Municipality, including Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford, Sackville and surrounding areas.