Graston Technique

I am not a doctor. Nor do I play one on TV or in the movies. However, I am becoming quite knowledgeable in techniques that can be used in the treatment of spine and muscle issues and accompanying pain. I don’t recall signing a release stating I would be willing to be a guinea pig to these treatments in order to help educate my readers, but apparently a higher power has that plan for me.

Recently, I got to experience the Graston Technique. Graston Technique is defined as “a trademarked therapeutic method for diagnosing and treating disorders of the skeletal muscles and related connective tissue. The method employs a collection of six stainless steel tools of particular shape and size, which are used by practitioners to rub patients’ muscles in order to detect and resolve adhesions in the muscles and tendons. Practitioners must be licensed by the parent corporation in order to use the Graston Technique trademark or the patented instruments. Several examples of Graston treatment have been used in contact sports where scars and contusions are common.”

The best way I can describe it, from my experience, is that it involves a pressured scraping motion over a specific area of skin in a back and forth repetition. Dr. Craig put a few drops of a scented oil on the area before he began, and also told me to let him know if it got too painful. The first area he addressed was between my neck and shoulder on the right side, where I’ve been experiencing the aftermaths of the dislocated shoulder. I sensed that he started out with just a little pressure and continued to apply more pressure while moving the instrument back and forth. It got painful, and I know I made a couple of ‘cringy‘ faces along the way, but I was determined I was going to prove I was not the wimp he thought I was through the cupping sessions, and I didn’t make a sound the entire time. It might have lasted three minutes. He then also did the same treatment just above my elbow, where I’d been experiencing some jabbing pains. I got through that as well, though I mentioned that it was more painful than the one on my shoulder (less fat for absorption, probably?). But, at the end of the treatment, I wasn’t in tears or even close to being so. So I called it a success!

The next two days, I know that the area around my neck and shoulder was very sensitive to touch, but there was no bruising of any kind. By day five, I didn’t feel any sensitivity in the area there and had experienced none at the elbow area. After what I’d suffered through with multiple cupping sessions, I now claimed it a major success!

And a week later, when I went back for my appointment, I could report that I had had absolutely zero pain in my shoulder/neck area, other than the topical sensitivity issues right after treatment. This was a huge breakthrough! Furthermore, what pain issues I still had I was able to pinpoint and describe. There is an area in my upper arm, centered between my shoulder and my elbow, that feels like it contains a used, dry sponge. If you’re at all familiar, you know that it’s nearly impossible to manipulate or stretch a used, dry sponge. And that’s exactly how it feels. When I try to do my exercises or overextend my use of that arm, it feels like when it’s time for those muscles to respond accordingly, they just don’t! And it’s painful there when I try. Only occasionally anymore, and only for a brief amount of time, do I get the stabbing, radiating pain and it’s always when I don’t take my time reaching for something. But I’m using my arm more frequently again for normal routines, and ignoring the pain when necessary to accomplish a personal hygiene task. At my last visit, when Dr. Craig put me through the mobility tests, he says the mobility is increasing – that I’m moving more before reaching the pain level at which I’m supposed to stop. It doesn’t feel like there has been a change to me – to be honest, I think it’s more that my pain level tolerance is increasing. But hey, something’s happening!

I’m still frustrated that it seems like there is a long road in front of me yet. I’m starting to convince myself that I may have to learn to live with this limitation for the rest of my life. But then again, who knows what other tricks Dr. Craig has up his sleeve???

Cupping Therapy

What the heck. I wrote a post about spoons, so now I’m going to carry on that theme and talk about cups.

Cupping is supposed to draw fluid into the area; the discoloration is due to broken blood vessels just beneath the skin, much like a bruise. Cupping has been popular in Egyptian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern cultures going back thousands of years, but increasing numbers of people worldwide have been adopting it. Cupping involves creating suction on the skin using a glass, ceramic, bamboo, or plastic cup in order to draw the fluid. Chinese medicine claims that cupping improves the flow of qi (energy) in a patient’s body as well.

Until I had my first cupping session, I had no idea that cupping even existed, much less what it was. After trying a variety of things to help my right shoulder heal after dislocating it, my chiropractor decided to try this method on me. He was behind me and I couldn’t see what he was doing; he merely told me that it was going to feel like I was being pinched. Visually, I imagined some kind of metal instrument that would pinch my skin.

He applied the first cup and it took everything I had not to cry out in pain (I already know I have a low pain tolerance, but this hurt massively!). With the third cup attached, I was whimpering and close to hyperventilating. By the last one, my eyes were filled with tears and I was trying to push my mind into an out-of-body experience to get away from the pain. Remember, I’m visually imagining these big metal pinchers digging into my skin! So, he walks out from behind me and, while I’m thinking I’m dying, he has the nerve to ask me to start moving my arm! I just lifted my head and looked at him, the tears spilling down my cheeks! I had a tissue in my left hand, but I felt like my entire body was frozen, so I couldn’t even move to wipe my own tears away. So, after Dr. Craig got a tissue and wiped my face, he got me to stand up and he started moving my arm/shoulder in different directions. It didn’t hurt, and later he told me that the areas with suction will tend to go a bit numb. This went on for a good 8-10 minutes and then he easily and quickly released the suction and lifted off the cups.

(In my post entitled “Are you a melter or a chewer?” you can see a photo of the bruises left behind afterwards. Because of those bruises, I got a week ‘free’ from the torture for my next visit.)

Two weeks ago, he decided to concentrate on my arm, because that was where I was experiencing pain with movement. When he put the first cup on, I gasped audibly. The second cup got a very unladylike whisper in which I told him in no uncertain terms that it “hurt like a MF’er!” Yea, I used the words and while I wasn’t proud, they made my point! Finally, they all were on, and he decided it was worth photos!

I swear you can see the flesh being sucked upwards!

Of course, bruising followed! Last week, another session and here is what it left behind:

You can even see some of the still healing bruise from the previous treatment!

Fun this is not. Painful this definitely is. And yet, I will keep going back again and again, crying, swearing and/or gritting my teeth through the pain. Because it’s finally beginning to make a difference! The actual dislocated shoulder is fine, but there has been ongoing pain and inflammation in the nerves, soft tissue and muscles surrounding the area and down into my arm. For the first time, I’ve been able to find and maintain 90% of my ability to reach upward, as long as I don’t jerk it up. The throbbing pain I’d been having in my upper arm when I was sitting still has not happened for two weeks now. I still try things that I don’t think should give me pain and they do, but I’m taking more chances to return tasks to my right arm and hand that I’d delegated to the left side.

I don’t know how much longer it will take to be fully healed. As much as I don’t like cleaning chores, I find myself wanting to do them because I can’t! But I do believe that I am on the road to healing, and while it can be painful, I would recommend this therapy to anyone dealing with inflammation or knots in their muscles, nerves and soft tissue. Besides, I wasn’t planning to be seen in a bikini any time soon (or any time, to be honest!) so no one will see the bruises unless I choose to show them!

Wish me continued luck!