Monday, March 1, 2010

When Butter Knives Attack: The Graston Technique

Those of you who know me well will know that I've been dealing with a variety of soft tissue ... situations. Earlier in my career I would have called them injuries but now they are part of the cost of doing what I do. But they are, or have been, painful, debilitating and at least part of the cause of me DNFing one Death Ride Season. (The larger part was me not H'eningTFU; but that's a different post)

Research led me to a therapy known as The Graston Technique. It's revolutionized my life, in ways both large and small. I am a huge fan of it. But, I would be remiss if I did not examine it through the gray tinted lenses of sarcastic cynicism that is my duty to you, my loyal readers...

So, Graston Technique - what's it all about, then?

I could quickly - and succinctly - reply, saying "it's an innovative technique designed to improve athletic functionality by freeing up the fascia which otherwise binds to muscle & ligaments preventing smooth biomechanics. But that's like saying the last 15 miles of the Death Ride is all downhill. It misses the point. By a long chalk. Plus, who uses one word where 17 would do?

So, the Graston Technique:

You know how when you've finished cooking spaghetti and you trip over the cat while you're trying to drain the pasta and it ends up in a tangled heap on the floor, now garnished with cat hair and the dog lapping up the bits around the edges and you frantically dancing around because you've slopped some of the boiling pasta water on your reproductive apparatus? That's what your muscle fibers look like when they're all scarred up and, well, tangled. (The spaghetti on the floor, not the, ah, boiled areas) Let's call that Situation (A) - Prior to Graston Technique Treatment.

You want them to look like the spaghetti in the box - all nice and tidy all running in the same direction (of course, you want your muscle fibers to be all elastic and not dried out and strong and stuff, but that's still what you want the overall effect to look like). Let's call that Situation (B) - Post the Graston Technique Treatment

Obviously, you wan to get from Situation (A) (just as obviously, I hope, sans the self-cooking) to Situation (B). How do you get there? Clearly, via The Graston Technique Treatment.

And this is what it is.

Take a butter knife. Scrape it across your muscles fibers to encourage them to straighten themselves up. Skin in the way? No worries - just press harder. Muscles/ligaments being resistant to the technique? Press down some more. Working on a big muscle or one of the really tough ligaments that is so critical to your locomation? Easy solution - Dig it in ALL the way. Trying to go into one of those deep muscles that are near the bone? You guessed it. Go harder. I mean Just Dig That Mother In All The Way. Touch bone if you can. And keep going.

Go Big Or Go Home is the motto of the Graston people and none of them knock off work early. These are people with a super commitment to their annointed profession.

Key question: how do you know when you're going hard enough? Well, when you're flaying the flesh from the client's body, you'll detect scar tissue. It'll feel like crumbs of toast. Big crumbs. Not quite crouton size, but sizeable all the same. When you're grastoning away on someone and you find these crumbs you cry "Aha!" and scrape all the deeper, until the crumbs disappear under your ministrations. Where do the crumbs go? As far as I can tell, they form themselves into tears of blood which you then weep. (You the patient, not you the Graston Technique Afficionado.)

What does it feel like? Well, let's say it hurts. Imagine if someone was using a cheese grater on your achilles. That's what it feels like; which is presumably why it's called the Graston Technique.

Amusingly, on the Graston Technique website, they say, in FAQ5, "it is common to experience minor discomfort." Now, either the definition of "minor" has changed a lot since I was growing up; OR the definition of the word "common" has changed a lot; or this is straight up, and there's no other way to express this, bullshit.

So Why Am I Doing This?

Cancer's not going to cure itself. My commitment to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is to raise $10,000 in calender year 2010 to support the important work they do.
  • If you're able to offer financial support, you can do so at my fundraising page
  • If you're curious about participating in Team In Training, let me know - I'd be delighted to tell you all about it. At length (now there's a surprise)
  • If you feel so inclined to share , either this blog or, more importantly my fundraising page, please do so. More people than you could ever realize have been touched by these diseases.
Once again: thank you for your support. All idiocy aside: we spend a lot of time training hard and acknowledgement from our friends, colleagues and family means more than you might think. Go Team!

A rare diversion into sincerity

Let me just say this: Graston Technique, and Active Release Therapy, have been pivotal to me getting healthy again. I wholeheartedly and unreservedly recommend it; and a couple of practitioners I've worked with, to anyone who may need it. It wouldn't be fair of me to nominate them here in this post, but if you ping me I'll be more than happy to provide references - either in San Francisco, or Oakland.

You can check out a pretty comprehensive description of the practice at

An Inevitable PostScript

PS - apropos of the boiling spaghetti story a friend of mine told me about a friend of his (so it must be true) who was serving Tuna Tetrazzini for Thanksgiving. That's not the horror of it. Her guests had arrived, the tuna was cooling and she wandered into the kitchen. To discover that the cat was eating the Tuna Tetrazzini. *Tha'ts* not the horror of it. The cat was, and you want to take a moment to visualize this, Standing. In. The. Tuna. Tetrazinni. And **THAT'S** not the horror of it.

My own related cooking experience was my one (and, as you'll quickly determine, only) attempt at making broccoli soup.
1. Purchase and trim the broccoli
2. Steam it until just fork-tender
3. Place in blender with salt, EVOO and a drizzle of truffle oil. Blend to puree
3. Remove from blender. Pour over trousers
4. Remove trousers.
5. Serve pizza.

The End.

Thanks to Melissa for the Crumbs Analogy; and to Lisa O for Michael's Tetrazzini Story

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