Benefits of Gua Sha/Scraping Therapy
What is Gua Sha (刮痧)?
Gua Sha is an age old bodywork technique that can be used for pretty much anything from your daily aches and pains or headaches to chronic severe ailments. It is used to intentionally surface petechiae to the skin by using a scraping technique in order to help detoxify the body and relieve pain. This unique folk healing method is still commonly practiced in China and other parts of Asia and is often performed in TCM clinics, hospitals, spas as well as in many Asian households. Gua Sha is popular in Asia because it is a simple technique that’s easy to use, and the results are often fast and amazing.
The word “Gua” means to scrape, and “Sha” has two meanings. ① “Sha” from a TCM point of view, refers to the stagnant blood and qi that is blocking the meridian pathway inhibiting proper flow of energy and blood. From a western medicine point of view, it refers to the fluids that contain metabolic waste that is congested in the tissues and muscles.② “Sha” also refers to a series of reddish, minute hemorrhages that look like a red colored speckled rash called petechia that can surface to the skin after the Gua Sha treatment.
In this bodywork technique, a round edged tool such as a spoon is used to scrape the skin to release the stagnant blood and qi or “sha” to the surface of the skin and appears as a group of petechia. This may sound and even look bad, but it’s very detoxifying and cleansing for the body. By letting your body get rid of this old stagnant blood, new and better performing blood cells can be created. Remember, there’s only so much room in your body so sometimes you have to be willing to let go of the old in order to bring in the new. Gua sha is a great method to help your body release excess wastes and help bring in refreshing nutrients to your cells.
What are the Benefits of Gua Sha?
This scraping technique is used to release the body of blood stagnation. Blood stagnation is considered to be the cause of many diseases in TCM. To visualize this, you may want to compare the water from a running stream versus the water in a still stagnant pond. The stagnant pond will be full of gunk, green moss and other growths while the running stream will have clear water. Our entire blood circulation is very similar to this. When the blood is not flowing properly, it starts to become stagnant and creates an environment more suitable for disease.
This is why Gua Sha is such a useful technique. It can quickly release blockages in your body caused by stagnant blood. This is because it mimics sweating and promotes body fluid circulation which helps to normalize cellular metabolic processes and release toxic waste from your deep cellular tissues. It also increases blood and qi circulation to help oxidize your cells as well as nourish them. In other words, gua sha has two main functions where it both nourishes and detoxifies. One, the stroke action used to release petechiae to the surface of the skin, forces more blood and oxygen to the area treated which helps to nourish those cells. Two, the actual petechia becomes a byproduct that signals the body to do a sweep up of the area so that it eliminates both the dead blood cells as well as other toxins that surfaced towards the skin during the gua sha process. After a treatment, the patient often has immediate relief from pain, headaches, fever, chills, cough, chest pains, nausea, stiffness, etc. After a series of treatments gua sha is able to release enough toxins to allow the body to find inner balance.
How is Gua Sha performed?
The area that will be treated will first be lubricated with massage oil. (It is also beneficial to first treat the body with either a hot bath or an infrared sauna before the treatment in order to warm up the muscles and increase blood circulation.) A chosen area of the skin is then stroked in a downward motion using a smooth edged device that can be made out of rock, jade, buffalo horn, or plastic etc. If these are unavailable, a metal spoon, a soup spoon, or even a larger coin such as a quarter can be used. Just make sure that the surface of the device used is smooth edged so that it will be comfortable when used on the skin. Continue to stroke in a downward motion until the petechiae surfaces to the skin completely. You’ll know you’re done treating an area when even with continuous stroking, no petechiae continues to surface. If after several downward stroking motions, the skin only becomes red, and no petechiae surface then that means there is no “sha” in the area and you can start scraping another part of the skin. When the patient starts to complain that the area you’re working on is sensitive, you can apply more oil or use a softer stroke. Also, remember to avoid scraping moles, cuts, or any unhealed open sores. “Sha” is usually found on the Yang surfaces of the body such as the back, neck, shoulders, and limbs but I have also seen great results when applied to the chest and abdomen.
What tools are used for Gua Sha?
Gua Sha involves a series of repeated pressured strokes done over lubricated skin with a smooth edged tool. The most commonly used tool is called a “gua sha ban” (刮痧板 literally meaning gua sha board) and this can be made from horned animal bones, water buffalo horn, or jade. Often times in Chinese households when a gua sha ban is unavailable, people will use a ceramic Chinese soup spoon or a coin usually the size of a quarter.
What does the color of the Sha indicate?
Very Light Colored Sha ——– Blood Deficiency
Fresh Red Sha ———————- Recent Penetration
Purple or Black Sha———— Long Term Blood Stasis
Brown Sha ————————— Blood may be dry
Dark Red Sha —————-May indicate heat in blood
How long does it take the petechiae to fade?
The sha usually fades within 2 to 4 days. If it takes longer to fade, this often indicates poor blood circulation and the practitioner should provide you with further advice on how to improve your overall circulation. With continuous Gua Sha treatments, the sha will start to fade faster which will be a good sign since it’s an indication of better blood circulation.
What can Gua Sha be used for?
Gua Sha can be used when a patient has pain, aches, tenderness, or tension in the muscles. It is also used to prevent the common cold, flu, bronchitis, asthma, as well as any other chronic disorders that involve the congestion of blood and qi.
Gua Sha can assist with the following:
Cough and Dyspnea: Bronchitis, Asthma, Emphysema
Fatigue caused by heat-stroke
Muscle and Tendon Injuries
Sluggish Blood Circulation
Stiffness, Pain, Immobility
High Blood Pressure
Low Blood Pressure
How often should Gua Sha be performed?
This technique can be performed 3 times a week and has better results when done on a continuous basis.Is Gua Sha safe?Gua Sha is a completely safe technique that can be used for pretty much any ailment. Make sure after a treatment you allow your body to rest in order to get the full detox benefits. This means no drugs, alcohol, sex, fasting, binging, hard labor, strenuous exercises, etc. for the rest of the day. Also, make sure you drink loads of warm water after the treatment as well as the next couple of days to keep your body well hydrated so that it can properly eliminate toxins released during the treatment.
On my trip to Taiwan, I was lucky enough to meet a great healing massage master. After weeks of suffering from bronchitis, my mother finally decided I needed some sort of detox and found what seemed to be just a small massage parlor down the street. When we went to make an appointment, there were several ladies talking outside of the parlor about how amazing this massage therapist was. Praying that this was the answer to helping me get over my weeks of coughing flem and difficulty breathing, my mom decided to make an appointment for me. When we got there, both my mom and I had thought this man was in his late 20’s or early 30’s and we had both thought this guy seemed too young to be as amazing as all the other ladies had claimed. Then later, on closer inspection, my mom decided to ask him how old he was, and he said he was well in his 70’s! Shocked, my mother tried to pry him for secrets of how he stayed so youthful looking and all he said was when your blood and qi are flowing well, your body just functions a lot better. Being a TCM student, I of course wanted to learn as much as I could from this healer. I spent the next 10 days having 3 hour massages there. I asked lots of questions and really paid close attention to his style and technique. I noticed that he used the scraping method on my entire body, in a very methodical way. For instance, on the back, he worked from left to right, and then repeated again starting from the spine and then working away from it. He really reached as many places on my body as he possibly could. He said, “You need to get rid of the negative qi in your body. When your body is misshaped, then you know that there is negative qi residing in there.” I’m paraphrasing but that’s pretty much what he said. I asked him what he meant by “misshaped” and he said he meant any bulge sticking out of your stomach or legs. If it’s not smooth there, then you know there’s some stagnant blood, qi, or energy blocking that area. So by the end of ten days, my lungs were feeling much better and I could finally breathe. Also, as a great side effect, everyone was telling me how much thinner I looked. Everyone said my legs were slimmer and my stomach was smaller. Even now, when I can tell that my body is out of shape or I start to have some chest problems, I’ll start using the scraping technique. I start seeing results immediately; it never ceases to amaze me. I really encourage people to just go out there and give this technique a try. It’s probably better to have someone show you how to do it first before you try using it on yourself at home, but once you know how, it’s a really simple method to use and has definitely helped improve my life drastically.
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