Gua Sha may be one of the best-kept secrets of Chinese medicine. It’s a healing technique that involves scraping your skin with the smooth edge of a tool, slowly and repeatedly. The purpose of Gua Sha is to reach deeply into your underlying tissues to break up scar tissue and promote healing. Oil or lotion is often used to smooth your skin during the treatment, while your practitioner performs Gua Sha strokes to your back, neck, arms, legs, or any muscular or tendinous area. In some cases, Gua Sha may be performed on specific acupuncture points as an alternative to needling. The scraping from Gua Sha can cause redness on the surface of your skin, which is a positive indication of increased blood flow and healing. The redness usually fades within two hours to four days.
In ancient times, Gua Sha was performed using rocks or tools made from water buffalo horn or animal bones. Gua Sha is also known as skin coining, spooning, and scraping because more recently, the tools have been made from jade, ceramics, coins, a spoon, and even the lid from a jar. Over the past thirty years, modern physical therapy techniques have developed from Gua Sha. Instrument Aided Soft Tissue Manipulation (IASTM), Augmented Soft Tissue Mobilization (ASTYM), fascial abrasion technique, and Graston Technique are manual therapy scraping methods with different names based on the different materials or shape of the instruments used. In most cases, these instruments are made primarily of stainless steel.
How It Works
While scraping your skin may seem like an unlikely way to heal, Gua Sha actually works for a number of reasons. The strokes are applied with a controlled amount of pressure to affect tissue below the surface of your skin. It breaks up scar tissue and adhesions, specifically in tight and damaged muscles and tendons. Because scar tissue limits circulation to the area, it interferes with proper healing and tissue regeneration. When the scar tissue or adhesions are removed through Gua Sha, circulation is restored which brings a new supply of healing nutrients to the injured area. This allows cellular turnover and tissue healing.
Gua Sha is also effective because it causes tiny microtraumas to the treated tissue. This means that it creates microscopic injuries that signals your body to heal. The red or purple marks from a Gua Sha treatment are signs of the microtraumas that have occurred. As a result, your body steps up to reduce inflammation and promote healing to the area.
A Gua Sha treatment also helps to loosen tight muscles and relieve pain. Some research studies have reported that IASTM treatments, which are a form of Gua Sha, can help decrease pain related to sports injuries, improve the function of soft tissue, and promote a better range of motion.
In addition to muscle-related injuries, Gua Sha treatments can offer effective relief for a wide range of conditions, including:
- Tennis elbow
- Frozen shoulder
- Repetitive motion injuries
- Scar tissue, adhesions
- Neck and shoulder pain
- Respiratory problems, such as colds, bronchitis, asthma
- Nausea, especially morning sickness
- Sports rehabilitation
- Back pain
At BodaHealth, we’re proud of the fact that we can offer our patients a wide variety of natural healing methods, and Gua Sha is one of the techniques that our practitioners use to help people get better faster. If you want to know more about how Gua Sha may be able to help you, or if you have a specific health concern, please contact us today.