Two of our patients’ main goals when they first step into our office are to relieve pain and improve the way they move. As chiropractors, we have an impressive arsenal of tools and techniques we use to help free you from these symptoms as quickly and safely as possible. Spinal adjustment and the Graston Technique are two popular chiropractic methods that relieve pain and dysfunction. Although they both help our patients feel better, they are based on wildly different theories, treat different anatomical structures, and use various tools. The following overview will help you understand the differences between these two techniques.

Spinal Adjustment

Spinal adjustment and car accidents are what members of the general public usually associate with chiropractors. Spinal adjustment is a hands-on treatment that requires extensive assessment for each patient.

To better understand spinal adjustment, taking a step back and considering the spine is essential. The spine as a whole is the connection between your upper and lower bodies. It also protects the spinal cord that sends messages between the brain and nerves located throughout the body. While we often think of nerves that help us feel sensation, note the relative position of one body part compared to another body part, or move body parts we can see, the nerves are just as involved in life-sustaining functions we can’t see, such as the beating of our hearts, digesting our most recent meal, or breathing.

When we move, we create misalignments in our spines. The medical term for these misalignments is subluxations. Subluxations are frequently caused by disease, inflammation, accidents, and everyday movement.

Although we most frequently correct spinal subluxations, they can occur anywhere in the body. When one of our chiropractors, for example, realigns a subluxated foot, our patient feels relief from painful foot conditions such as plantar fasciitis. A similar process occurs when an adjustment reduces compression on nerves within the carpal tunnel. The physical regions are different, but a similar process is encouraging the body to heal itself.

Subluxated bones can grate against one another, such as in osteoarthritis or runner’s knee. This can cause pain and make it difficult to move. In the spine, the facets or spinal bones can press on the spinal cord or the nerves connecting to the spinal cord. Such compressed nerves can be extremely painful. They also don’t work as efficiently. As a result, messages between the brain and the body can be incomplete, missing, or altered.

Before adjusting your spine, our team performs a comprehensive assessment that includes a physical examination, extensive medical history interviews, and functional movement testing. Once we discover subluxations, we use our hands and established spinal adjustment techniques to move the spine or other bones back into correct alignment. This process isn’t painful, but sometimes patients feel a bit sore. For many of our patients, the most jarring aspect of an adjustment is the popping sound made as air escapes from the joint space.

Normal positioning and nerve function are restored when your spine is optimally aligned. Although chiropractic adjustment can treat the area we directly contact with our hands or nearby structures, we can also use it to treat conditions that involve multiple systems. Examples of these global conditions include fibromyalgia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

Graston Chiropractic Technique

The Graston Technique is another widely respected chiropractic method. The first main difference between it and spinal adjustment is that the Graston Technique is a form of soft tissue work. Like massage and other forms of soft tissue work, it can remove lactic acid and other waste products that cause muscle pain while boosting the circulation of healing oxygen and other nutrients.

The second way that the Graston Technique differs from chiropractic adjustment is that it uses a stainless steel tool. These tools are available in six different sizes for use on different areas of the body. All stainless-steel construction means this tool is an eco-friendly reusable item that we can easily sanitize between patients.

One of these metal tools is first used to discover scar tissue within each muscle. Areas of muscular scar tissue are called adhesions in medical circles, while lay persons call them knots. Adhesions constrict the muscles, making movement difficult and painful. The reduced activity also reduces the circulation needed for muscle maintenance and repair.

Another issue with adhesions is that they cause additional muscular injury when you move. Continual inflammation, pain, and dysfunction of the same injured area spur one another on toward greater tissue damage. Fortunately, freeing muscles from adhesions using the Graston Technique slows this dangerous process, allowing muscles to repair themselves.

The Graston Technique involves using the metal tool to perform a cross-friction massage. This movement consists in pulling the device in the opposite or cross-direction of the adhesion. This process creates a controlled injury in the opposite direction of the adhesion. While this may seem like the last thing we would want to do, this engineered injury attracts additional healing resources such as oxygen, protein, and other nutrients used to regenerate the damaged muscle.

Since the Graston Technique involves moving around soft tissues, it’s normal if you feel a bit uncomfortable during your session and have a bit of soreness the next day. Sometimes, mild bruises form for a day or two, as well. Please speak up if you receive this therapy and experience anything more than mild discomfort. Since you’ll be coming for multiple sessions as your muscle heals, we’ll do our best to ensure you’re more comfortable at future sessions.

Not Sure Which Approach Is Best for You?

If you want to try one or both of these approaches, we want you to come to see us. We have lots of experience creating individualized chiropractic wellness plans for patients that include customized in-office interventions as well as dietary, exercise, and other at-home protocols to extend healing while maintaining results. For more information, please call us at (970) 344-9551, or set up an appointment online.