What’s The Deal With The Blade Scraper?

Using blade scraping during a physical therapy session on an athlete recovering from a rotator cuff injury.

Using blade scraping during a physical therapy session on an athlete recovering from a rotator cuff injury.

If you follow us on social media, you’ve probably seen us using a big metal scraper on some of our athletes. You may have even seen the terrible bruises that happen when it’s misused. So what’s the deal? Let’s take a look.

What is it?

Blade scraping is pretty simple. It’s basically using a tool to work on muscles and smooth fascia. You may hear it referred to as IASTM, ASTYM or Graston. Each is slightly different, but all use similar looking tools during the treatment. The fascia is like a thick layer of saran wrap that surrounds each muscle. The blade tools have a beveled edge, which allows the physical therapist to depress the skin and access this fascia. We can produce a similar result with just the use of our hands, however the tool allows us to provide more consistent pressure at specific angles for longer periods of time without fatigue. 

What’s it used for?

The main goal of blade scraping is to smooth out fascia, reduce scar tissue, increase local blood flow, reduce pain and increase range of motion. Here’s the theory: after an injury, your body will lay down collagen in the fascial layer that produces scar tissue. This is a good thing, but the collagen is often unorganized and can form small, sticky bundles, or adhesions. These can limit range of motion and lead to dysfunction over time. The beveled edge of the blade allows us to smooth out or re-organize these adhesion. I love using the blade scraper on my athletes in the Nashville, TN and Franklin, TN areas. It is particularly useful for muscle tears, post-surgical range of motion loss, rotator cuff injuries, tendonitis and trigger point release.

Does it work?

Yes. Although the empirical research isn’t there quite yet, the gains of the treatment are clear in my opinion. When used by the right people on the right conditions, blade scraping can be a valuable tool for injury recovery. Just like cupping and dry needling, the treatment must be combined with corrective exercise and activity modification in order to lock in the gains. 

Is it a good choice for me?

Blade scraping is great treatment for most of my athletes. It won’t fix you, but it can definitely help. There are very few risks with blade scraping when done correctly. Redness in the treatment area is the most common side effect. You SHOULD NOT be significantly bruised after blade scraping. If you are, it’s time to find a different physical therapist. 

If you’re interested in doing some blade scraping or just want to learn more about it, just TEXT US. We’d love to chat.

Josh Orendorf is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and owner of Paceline Physical Therapy in Franklin, TN. He is an Ironman triathlete and Boston Marathon qualifier. He has a passion for helping athletes conquer injury and return to sport without pain. He lives in Nashville, TN with his wife, Leigh, and their dog, Annie.