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Is Graston Technique® Safe During Pregnancy?

During pregnancy, there are all sorts of aches and pains that a chiropractor can alleviate. Achy neck? Check. Back pain? Check. Tired feet? Check. Often times we, as Chiropractors use Graston Technique® in certain areas to help release these tight areas, but some mamas wonder if this is safe during pregnancy?

Introduced in the 1990s, Graston Technique is a manual soft tissue mobilization practice that employs hand-held instruments to break up scar adhesions, reduce swelling, improve range of motion, and resolve chronic injuries. It’s great for people who have chronic neck, shoulder, elbow, back, wrist, knee, ankle, or foot pain, because it can address soft tissue and fascial tightness, helping to restore movement and relieve pain.

In the Graston Technique, our clinicians add to physical therapy the use of stainless steel instruments to break up scar tissue or adhesions that build up around ligaments, muscles, and tendons when the body heals from an injury.

More than 32,000 practitioners use the Graston Technique

Your trained therapist “combs” a stainless-steel instrument across areas of the body to identify fibrotic, or thickened and scarred, tissue. Next, specifically designed instruments are used to rub the affected area in long, smooth motions to mobilize stuck tissue called adhesions, which can cause inflammation and pain. The Graston Technique not only treats painful joints in pregnant women, it can also be used on Cesarean scarring.

Patients should not experience pain, though there may be mild discomfort and, sometimes, light bruising. At Urban Wellness Clinic, most patients receive treatments once or twice a week for four to five weeks.

The Benefits of the Graston Technique

Studies of the Graston Technique have found that its benefits include an increase in blood flow, myofascial release, interruption of pain receptors, improved flexibility, and reduced tightness.

For pregnant women, the Graston Technique can reduce swelling in the hands during pregnancy or afterwards, from holding the baby. This includes relief from carpal tunnel syndrome or De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, a painful condition affecting the tendons on the thumb side of the wrist. Some of the conditions treated through the technique include:

  • Knee pain
  • Tennis elbow
  • Tendonitis
  • Plantar fasciitis
  • Lower back pain
  • Iliotibial band
  • Fibromyalgia

It is also a great form of lymphatic massage, which reduces swelling by promoting the flow and drainage of lymph, a fluid that contains infection-fighting white blood cells. Lymph can build up during pregnancy, causing tissue to swell.

Graston Technique side effects pregnant women should know about

Side effects of Graston Technique while pregnant can include one to two days of soreness, redness, itching, and skin discoloration. That’s because the technique is more aggressive than other types of massage, making it preferable for thick soft tissue and scar tissue. Its inflammatory reaction helps the body to produce new collagen fiber.

As with any chiropractic care for pregnancy, it’s important to take into consideration any contraindications that the Graston Technique may have. That’s because it may release excess relaxin, a hormone that relaxes the body’s muscles, joints, and ligaments in the pelvis to allow them to stretch during the baby’s delivery.

How does the relaxin hormone affect your body during pregnancy?

When you’re not pregnant, the relaxin hormone is secreted in the ovaries. But during pregnancy, the placenta and the lining of the uterus also produce relaxin. During the first trimester of pregnancy, relaxin levels rise to help the fertilized egg implant into the uterine wall. In the third trimester, relaxin helps soften and open the cervix for childbirth.

Relaxin also plays a role in the musculoskeletal system, and it’s involved in healing injured ligaments and skeletal muscle. It works as an antifibrotic agent, meaning that it helps reduce the development of scar tissue.

During pregnancy, relaxin can cause some side effects and symptoms. It relaxes the ligaments of the spine, making them less stable, which can lead to back pain. Though the relaxin hormone relaxes the ligaments in the pelvis to aid delivery of the baby, this can cause pain in the pelvic girdle, the bony area that connects your trunk to your legs.

These overly stretched areas can increase the risk of injury during the final trimester of pregnancy. That wobbly, unsteady feeling you get probably has to do with relaxin, so it’s important to take extra care when moving about during the final months of your pregnancy. It’s also an important time to make sure your body is properly attuned, aligned, and stable, and chiropractic techniques at the Urban Wellness Clinic can help.

Note that elevated levels of relaxin are associated with premature birth and may help predict the likelihood of delivering prior to 34 weeks of gestation. So, if you are at increased risk for premature labor, discuss with your obstetrician whether the Graston Technique is right for you.

Webster Technique: Urban Wellness approach to the Graston Technique

At Urban Wellness Clinic, we have not experienced any relaxin-related side effects of the Graston Technique and find it to be generally safe during pregnancy. In fact, we find it helps reduce tightness caused by added abdominal weight during pregnancy. Our clinicians are among the most capable Graston Technique practitioners in New York City, helping patients get on the fast track to recovery.

Though the technique can be used anywhere on the body, we like it best for ligaments and tendons to break up adhesions, improve range of motion, and relieve pain.

For our patients in the third trimester of pregnancy, we use the Webster Technique to assess the pelvis and determine where to release. It is a specific adjustment of the sacrum, the large triangular bone at the base of the spine, that helps release certain ligaments, releasing tension in the pelvic region. In fact, I found it to be an essential tool to my own natural delivery of Baby Elvis.

The Webster Technique reduces lower back pain and back labor and facilitates neuro-biomechanical function. We have turned breech babies using this technique, helping better position them for birth and saving mothers from painful back labor deliveries.

Pregnant women in particular sit in such a way that it can cause a torsion or a twist in the pelvis. Add to that carrying a purse, child, or diaper bag on one shoulder and the round ligament, which attaches to the uterus, can get tight. The round ligament has muscle fibers where our clinicians can find trigger points. There, we use gentle Graston Technique motions to release tight muscle fibers, allowing the pelvis to return to its neutral position.

If you’re looking for pain relief or increased stability during pregnancy, consider our chiropractic care. Contact us today about the Graston Technique and the Webster Technique during pregnancy. Call us at 212-355-0445 or email us at We’re here for you!

Best in health,

Dr. Emily Kiberd