Has anyone mentioned to you lately that they were scrapped by a health care provider and it felt great! It sounds kinda crazy but that process is called Gua Sha.
Gua Sha in History
The first written records of gua sha date back 700 years, to the era of the Ming Dynasty, though, the practice is thought to be much older than that.
The term gua sha is comprised of two Chinese words: gua, meaning to rub or scrape, and sha, meaning stagnation. Taken together, the term gua sha means the act of rubbing the skin in order to mobilize soft tissue and circulate the fluids that reside in it.
Gua sha was traditionally performed with any object with a smooth edge (water buffalo horn being a favorite back in the day) but in my practice I prefer tools made from stainless steel.
Gua sha can be performed over most joints and areas of the body helping treat a wide range of soft tissue injuries. Actually, because of how old this treatment is, it can be thought of as the oldest form of physical therapy!
In fact, physical therapists, manual therapists and chiropractors have also incorporate gua sha into their practices but depending on their training its referred to as: IASTM (Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization) or Graston Technique.
How does Gua Sha Work?
Often when a patient comes to see me their injury has become chronic (more than a few weeks old) which means the body has completed most of its self-healing process. Through that process the body will quickly and haphazardly lay down new tissue creating scar tissue and adhesions leading to decrease range of motion and increased pain.
Gua sha will create a micro trauma to the area to facilitate a breakdown of the excessive scar tissue and help the body to remodel the soft tissue involved in the injury.
Gua sha should not be painful.
However, the resulting appearance of the skin after a treatment can be dramatic and alarming. The stroking motions of gua sha cause capillaries near the skin surface to bleed, causing red to purple streaks to appear along the stroke patterns. But when done correctly there should be no bruising and the redness will disappear in 2-4 days.