Graston for Runners

GrastonAfter running my spring marathon, I had so many plans for epic summer running. I couldn’t wait to change up my routine, check out some trails and remember the feeling of a hot, sweaty run. But while the rest of my body recovered from my marathon, my right calf was not healing as quickly. I tried to deny the familiar pain and just pretend it was a sore muscle, but deep down in my sinking heart, I knew it: TENDINITIS.

Ah, tendinitis, my old foe, had returned to derail my running plans. The last time we tangled it took me weeks to seek professional diagnosis and treatment, so at least this time I had the benefit of experience on my side. Once I moved past denial, I picked up the phone immediately and scheduled an appointment with my chiropractor to begin Graston treatment.

What IS Graston, anyway?

Graston® is an evidence-based technique for aiding in the healing process of soft tissue injuries, such as tendinitis, plantar fasciitis, shin splints, and more. The purpose of the Graston technique is to break up scar tissue and fascial restrictions. In time this will reduce or eliminate the adhered fibers, restore range of motion, and eliminate the pain from the injury.

How is Graston performed?

Your clinician (in my case, my chiropractor) uses a stainless steel instrument to treat the affected area by moving it back and forth slowly over the injury for several minutes. The amount of pressure, speed and time used will vary depending on the severity of your injury and tolerance to the pain. In my case, as my tendinitis heals, he has been able to put more pressure on the injury over time as the tendons loosen up.

Graston Tools
Hmm, the tools do look like torture devices…

Does this hurt?

Uh … take a look at the photo. Yeah, it hurts.

You will likely experience discomfort from this procedure. I tell my friends that it feels like my leg is meat being tenderized. But don’t let this scare you! It is a pain that I know is productive because I will ultimately heal faster. You may also experience some bruising from Graston, depending on pressure and whether you are prone to bruises in general.

How many times do I have to get Graston?

This is going to vary greatly, depending on the injury and its severity. In my case, I receive Graston treatments 1-2 times per week, and have been doing so for about 5 weeks. This is not indicative of how long you may need treatments, however. I am actually receiving treatments on my left leg, which flared up just as my right leg was fully healed. You will work closely with your provider to determine length and frequency of treatment.

In my personal experience, I have found Graston to be extremely helpful. Tendinitis and other soft-tissue injuries can be stubborn and lingering, but Graston has helped speed along the healing process. The most important thing I have learned is to be patient with the process and fight the urge to run before I’m ready. All my tendinitis setbacks have occurred because I tried to run before the injury was healed. Recently though, I have been better about listening to my body, and it’s not surprising that I am healing faster!

Have you received Graston or seen its benefits? If not, would you try it?

I'm a college mental health counselor, runner, cyclist, wife, and mom to two strong-willed children. I started running in 2011 after the birth of my last child after years of love-hate relationships with fitness. My favorite distance is the half marathon, but I love the challenge of tackling the marathon. My biggest challenge is the mental aspect of racing, but my greatest strength is I'm stubborn and never give up! I'm a free spirit, an open book, and try to be authentic both in real life as well as in my internet life. Running has given me a place to face my fears, chase goals, and stay humble. Side note: I love cats and coffee and tacos.

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  1. Timely article! I’m new to Graston and am pleased to agree with you that it is an effective treatment for runners. I went for some Graston immediately after starting to feel a niggle in my left calf (UGH). Like you, I am heading back for my 2nd session this week, and will continue to go in future. I was hesitant at first as it is done by a chiropractor (one who was recommended to me by a trusted runner friend), and I was really unsure what the procedure was going to feel like. Are they going to crack my bones, I thought? Ha.

    I hope your achilles is doing better!!

    1. I saw on Snapchat that you were going for some Graston fun! Glad that you are starting to feel better! I am currently giving my body a total rest to see if I can just get my leg fully healed. I had been doing crosstraining like a madwoman during this injury, and though it didn’t feel like I was making it worse, I think it was slowing down my healing a bit. I have a busy couple of weeks right now, so it’s okay timing to rest (it still sucks though). I’m hoping by Monday I can try a run again!

  2. This and Maple’s post are so timely. I started to feel something in my left lower calf/above my ankle area yesterday during a run. I’ve been stretching and foam rolling. Today is a planned rest day, so that worked out well. I’m going to test it out on an easy run tomorrow and if I feel anything I’m going to call my chiro and beg to get in. I looked yesterday and he doesn’t have an opening until the 22nd. I’m in week 6 of marathon training and really don’t want to get sidetracked…

    1. Oh no! Hope your rest day does the trick! I’ve been so grateful for my chiro during this injury period- he’s generally able to squeeze me in for last minute appointments if I need them. Good luck on your easy run tomorrow!!!

  3. I had Graston on my IT band back in 2011 after my first marathon. It was a long painful 8 weeks but man did it work- and truly made a difference in my running and getting me back on the road. It’s definitely painful at times, but I just used to swear my head off (sorry, dude) and also reminded myself that it was going to help me (Jinger, I was mindful!)

  4. Thanks for the info! I have been curious about Graston for years and have heard only painful but good things about it. I will try it on my next injury (not to be pessimistic…haha)