Gua Sha is based on the skin theory of traditional Chinese medicine: by using tools such as jade, ox horn or cupping jars with liniment on, scraping and rubbing repeatedly the relevant parts of the skin, to dredge the channel, and activate blood circulation to dissipate blood stasis. Regular Skin Scraping is helpful to adjust the qi, relieve fatigue, and improve one’s immune system.
Ancient Chinese Secret
In China ‘everyone knows’ Gua Sha. Gua Sha is to an Asian family what chicken soup is to a Jewish family. If a family member caught a chill or was “coming down with something”, Gua Sha was immediately used.
Before telling you about Gua Sha we must first back up and talk a little about connective tissue. Every muscle down to every muscle cell, every nerve down to every single axon, every organ as well as every vessel is ensheathed by connective tissue. Connective tissue can be regarded as a fully – fledged organ. There is not a cell or space that connective tissue does not integrate. There is nothing in the body it does not surround. Disuse and subsequent lack of warmth can cause connective tissue fluid to gel and the fibers to bunch and glue. This results in a thickening and shortening of the connective tissue, which may even bond to its underlying tissue, creating adhesions. The end result is constriction in movement, slowing of metabolic processes, and compromised immunity.
Like the metal framework of a skyscraper, connective tissue supports, connects, contains and transmits. Connective tissue is always at work in response to outside stimulation, thus the onset of the hundreds of illnesses the body can contract often enters from the skin and hair.
Cold acts in the body like it acts outside: it slows things down and causes things to collect and congest. When things congest in the connective tissue there is pain. And since connective tissue surrounds the whole body, when a patient exhibits pain on the surface, this could mean that there is a deeper disorder inside the body. When Gua Sha is used at the surface it will treat the surface as well as stimulate change in the corresponding internal disturbance. It is able to do this since every organ and tissue in the body is surrounded by connective tissue.
How Do I Know If I Need Gua Sha?
People who have a condition that the Chinese refer to as Sha are in need for Gua Sha. Make an impression on an area on your flesh that is causing you discomfort with several fingers of your hand. Then quickly pull your hand away. If you can still see the places where your fingers were pressed, there is Sha. The pressure from your fingers blanches the flesh, that is, displaces blood. If the blanching disappears slowly, it indicates that blood is obstructed or congealed. If a person presents with pain that is helped by massage, but the pain returns immediately after, it is a good indication of Sha. If a person has a sudden stiff neck, wakes with a body kink or reports pain that comes and goes, think Sha. Chronic pain problems almost always involve Sha.
How Does Gua Sha Work?
The technique of Gua Sha intentionally brings the Sha rash to the surface. Gua Sha is a technique which uses pressure and friction to the external skin, creating a fascilitation of connective tissue processes. Gua Sha, like any other therapy that manipulates or penetrates the body surface, stimulates the connective tissue thus affecting the internal organs.
Gua Sha moves, circulates and releases blood trapped in the peripheral capillaries. This technique affects the surface of the skin. Gua Sha releases the exterior Sha syndrome by moving body fluids and blood, mimicking the effect of sweat. The skin will feel warm and the presence of redness is often seen after a Gua Sha treatment. This redness or purplish hue to the skin is trapped or congealed blood that is not circulating properly in the body. Left untreated, this can create major problems in not just the muscles but also in the internal organs as well. The muscles deep to the superficial fascia and the organs deep to the muscles are also affected. Any pain, spasm or tightness in the muscles is immediately relieved by this new circulation of blood. The organs are likewise revitalized by the increased circulation of energy, blood, and fluids.
Gua Sha Facts:
The Sha often appears concentrated at the site of pain.
If the Sha is dark it indicates longer standing blood stagnation. If it is light, it may be fairly recent.
Most of the Sha will fade in 2-3 days. If sooner, the patient’s circulation is good. If some areas take longer to clear it may indicate lack of circulation to that area.
Patient’s report feeling an increase of warmth and range of motion. Their presenting pain is usually partially or completely gone.