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Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization

Gua Sha, Graston or scrapping are one of the tools used to mobilize soft tissues. So is cupping or soft tissue mobilization guns such as the Kraft Gun or TheraGun. What do each of these actually do for you? The use of a hard object with symmetrical pressure over a soft tissue allows for enhanced mobilization. Yes, we can use our hands to provide the same benefits: break down scar or adhesion, increase blood flow, create muscle tear to reinitiate the healing process (increases histamine production, fibroblasts, and angiogenesis), stretch connective tissue and muscle fibers, inhibits abnormal muscle tone, and mobilization of chronic edema. However, a tool allows for the use of less force over a larger area and still be as effective as using our fingers but more efficiently since we can cover a larger area and we get less tired in the process. Although any of these tools will give you the same changes to a degree, each of them have a function for which they are better than the others. Although I am not referencing any of the previously mentioned, you can search it on the internet, and you will find vast amounts of literature pointing out the benefits of each. From this point on, I am using my expert opinion only.

The KraftGun, just like the TheraGun or other high impact soft tissue mobilization gun/drill, I have found it great for decreasing pain and inhibiting the muscle or decreasing the activity of the muscle for a brief period of time. This allows for further mobilization or stretch of the muscle to be more effective. Cupping is great for increasing blood flow. If you have ever used these, you know you can bruise someone easily, and that is not the purpose. However, its purpose is to bring blood to the area by means of negative pressure or vacuum and trigger the healing mechanics (mast cells, fibroblasts, histamine, and angiogenesis). It can also be used to mobilize trigger points or stretch tissue since the negative pressure still splay and stretches the localized tissue passively or actively if you have the patient move while the cups are applied. Rocktape, kinesiotape or any elastic sports tape can also provide these benefits. However, tape has the amazing capability of stabilizing soft tissue or structure, decreasing edema or flattening keloid or elevated scars if applied long enough. The best benefit is that its effect is applied over a long period of time but it is applied once. At last, there is scrapping, gua sha or graston technique. It comes with many names but you can only call it Graston if you are certified by Graston. Anyhow, I find these tools to be great at breaking scar tissue, lengthening tissue, creating micro bleeding to reinitiate healing, and mobilizing micro edema.

Just like any tools, they are only good if used by someone with the correct knowledge of the condition needing treatment and if used with the right technique. We use them all at BreakingThrough San Diego Physical Therapy, properly.

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