Objectives: Instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization and massage therapy are manual techniques that claim to increase blood flow to treated areas, yet no data on these techniques are available. This study sought to compare the effects of the Graston Technique(®) (GT) and massage therapy on calf blood flow, using skin temperature measures on the lower leg.
Design: Single-blinded prospective, longitudinal, controlled, repeated-measures design.
Setting: Research laboratory.
Participants: Twenty-eight participants (mean age, 23±3 years; 14 men and 14 women; mean calf girth, 39.5±4.31 cm; calf skinfold thickness, 27.9±5.6 cm).
Interventions: Each participant received 10-minute treatments (massage or GT) on two separate sessions, with the untreated leg as a control.
Outcome measures: Baseline skin temperature of the calf was measured before treatment and again every 5 minutes after treatment for a total of 60 minutes. Differences between the 4 treatment conditions (GT, GT control, massage, and massage control) performed 13 times were evaluated with a repeated-measures analysis of variance. Significance was set a priori at p<0.05.
Results: Significant differences with Greenhouse-Geisser corrections were seen between conditions (F(2.4,61.2)=39.252; p<0.001; effect size [ES]=0.602) and time (F(2.1,54.4)=192.8; p<0.001; ES=0.881), but the main effect was not significant (F(2.1,53.5)=2.944; p=0.060; 1-β=0.558). The massage condition (32.05±0.16°C) yielded significantly higher skin temperatures than did massage control (30.53±0.14°C; p<0.001), GT (31.11±0.20°C; p<0.001), and GT control (30.32±0.14°C; p<0.001) conditions. Significant differences in time occurred: The temperatures at 5 minutes (30.21±0.12°C), 10 minutes (31.00±0.30°C), and 15 minutes (31.65±0.12°C) showed significant increases (p<0.001). Peak temperature was achieved at 25 minutes after treatment (31.76±0.12°C).
Conclusion: Massage and GT increased skin temperature. A rise in temperature theoretically indicates an increase in blood flow to the area.