Have you heard of Graston? It kind of sounds like the name of a handsome French guy, but it’s not.
I never had until I read about it on Hungry Runner Girl’s site. I was intrigued, but at the time, didn’t have much use for it so I read it and forgot about not long after.
About a month or so later, I began experiencing intense pain and cramping in my Achilles and calf muscles during my evening runs. Being the stubborn schmuck that I am, I tried to run through the pain stopping occasionally to try to stretch the muscles out with no luck. After a while it got to the point where the cramping in my legs was so bad that running was completely out of the question and walking was a stretch. With training for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon quickly approaching, I started to panic.
A few Google searches (and 1 scare that my legs may fall off…thanks Dr. Google) later, and I was back at HRG’s site re-reading about Graston. I did some research on the Graston website, and figured that it was a good place to start. I searched for a provider in my area that was within a reasonable distance and scheduled an appointment with a chiropractor (it seems that most places that offer Graston are chiros or physical therapists). After a consultation we set up an 8 week plan for my Graston treatment. I completed my 8 week plan just in time for the Pittsburgh Half Marathon and I can honestly say that without it, there is no way I would have been able to even consider running that race.
For those of you that are curious, it’s like a super intense, deep tissue massage. Stainless steel tools are used to “scrape” across your muscles and tendons – the theory here being that the stainless steel, unlike the fat pads of your fingers, doesn’t “give” when it presses against your skin which allows you to get deeper (that’s what she said) into the muscle . I’m not going to sugar coat this – it hurts. A lot. Especially if your muscles are one large ball of Charlie Horses. Having said that though, my doctor would never go any harder than I could handle. Throughout the procedure she asks if it hurts too much, if I can handle more, etc. Once the actual scraping is over, though, there isn’t any residual pain. I walk right out of the office, and can even run right away if my little heart desires. I, personally, like to wait a day just to give the muscles time to do their recovery thing. The other “side effect” is crazy bruising. It’s part of the healing process and is completely normal, but my legs looked like they went a few rounds with Mayweather. Unfortunately I never thought to take a picture, so I can’t share that delightful visual with you, but it was pretty ugly. I really don’t care what my legs look like, as long as I can run.
I’m still having some minor problems with my calf muscles (nothing even close to what it had been) but I’m working on some preventative maintenance measures (stretching, icing, compression, rolling, resting) and it was pointed out in the comments that I may simply need to up my sodium intake which I will certainly look into! For now, I try not to run any more than 2 days in a row and am making it a priority to ice my legs not only after every run, but even on nights I don’t. If I’m sitting around watching TV for an hour, there is no reason I can’t stuff some frozen bags of peas under my legs while I do it.
Right now, the plan is to go for Graston every 4-6 ish weeks to help work out any of the knots that may pop up during training. I just went a few days ago and can already feel the difference in terms of tightness and mobility. It’s awesome.