Gua sha is one of many healing modalities found in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). ‘Gua’ translates as scraping, and ‘sha’ refers to the red spots on the skin during the procedure. It is sometimes just called ‘scraping’ technique. Gua sha is performed with the assistance of a tool, usually a flat or slightly rounded specialized tool made from stone, metal, or hard plastic. However, in a pinch, many people have been known to use a common kitchen spoon, thus an alternative name for Gua sha, ‘spooning’.
Gua sha has many benefits including pain relief and clearing the symptoms of a common cold. For muscle pain, Gua sha is a fascia release technique. It can be very hard to release the fascia, which contracts when the muscles are injured. Fascia is much harder to relax than muscles due to it's strong fibrous makeup. To release fascia, you usually need to either pull and hold for a few minutes, or strongly scrape across the muscle and fascia. Cupping, another technique used in TCM, pulls and holds the tissues, thus releasing the fascia. Gua sha functions to scrape the fascia and thus releasing and loosening the tension and pain.
The ‘sha’, or red/purple coloration that appears on the skin is also called petechiae. Petechiae are a sign of anti-inflammatory and immune-protective factors, which can last for days following the treatment.
In TCM, we say Gua sha unblocks the channels or meridians. Most types of pain can be characterized by a blockage of Qi and Blood in the meridians. Gua sha is very effective at opening up the channels, allowing Qi and Blood to move freely.
When Gua sha is applied to the acupuncture meridians on the upper back and neck, it releases the exterior wind-heat and wind-cold, which in TCM refers to the external pathogens, much like western medicine would call the common cold.
At Lakewood Community Acupuncture, we offer gua sha and cupping as a service. We also sell the gua sha tools to be able to use in your own home with the instruction from one of our licensed acupuncturists on how and where to use the gua sha tool. Schedule your appointment today by clicking here.