Gua Sha, An Invaluable Tool In The Treatment Of Chronic Pain

Gua sha therapy also known as Meridian Scraping therapy is an ancient East Asian healing technique understood by only a few Western practitioners.  Scraping is commonly used in Vietnam and China, to treat fevers and aches affiliated with the common cold.  A similar technique is used by the Greeks in their every day massage regimens to alleviate pain and revitalize the blood.

Gua Sha therapy may be utilized to resolve various forms of ailments and illnesses.  Its main uses are to relieve symptoms of the common cold, strengthen the immune system and treat bodily pain. Its other uses are to help balance the flow of vital energy or chi through the energy channels or meridians, to address certain psycho-spiritual conditions and to stimulate regions of weak blood flow such as adipose tissue that can both have a contouring and detoxifying effect.

For chronic pain, Gua sha can definitely provide long term relief.  It has a wide range of both Eastern and Western mechanisms that bring about positive results.

The spasm-pain-spasm cycle that keeps muscles tight in a protective reaction is halted as the practitioner rubs over muscle spasms that have become rooted “knots”, enabling the muscle to relax.

Stroking over an area brings nutrients and oxygen to tissues that have been deprived.  The blood then washes out toxins such as lactic acid that have built up in the body.

Rubbing the tissue heats the fascia, the underlying support structure of the bones and muscles.  Individual strands of fascia start to crystallize and “adhere” together as a result of deposits of toxins, overuse, repetitive trauma, and misuse.  Heating this tissue brings the tissue back to its natural gelatinous state and ‘melts’ any adhesions that may have arisen.

The body can then be capable of realizing its original structure once muscular adhesions and tension are released.

According to Eastern philosophies, exogenous factors such as damp, cold, heat, and wind can be become trapped in the body’s outer layer resulting in pain due to blockage of the flow of blood and chi within the meridians.  Gua sha therapeutic techniques are the best way to free up these pathogens from the exterior promoting the smooth circulation of blood and chi in the body.

Gua sha has several other benefits aside from pain relief.

By clearing energy channel blockages, gua sha boosts the smooth flow of blood and chi, addressing almost any presenting illness and balancing the body.

Blood stasis hinders the creation of new blood.  New blood can be produced again once the stagnation is eliminated.  Blood is the material foundation of our minds.  When a person suffers from blood deficiency, he may have a difficult time creating emotional flexibility and boundaries and dealing with self esteem problems.  Blood deficiency can manifest in a multitude of problems including dizziness, lack of energy, lack of flexibility, muscular pain, etc. By stimulating the manufacture of new blood, gua sha treats both the physical and psycho-spiritual conditions related to blood deficiency.

Just like deep bodywork therapies such as rolfing, gua sha can provoke emotional release.  If the muscles are “retaining” emotions, they will be accepted, felt, and freed, as they relax.  Old problems that have been trapped in the body muscles get resolve naturally as this happens.

Gua sha therapy works well on fascia. Every muscle, artery, vein, nerve, and organ is sheathed in layers of fascia.  When the superficial fascia is stroked, deeper structures will be influenced and their function will be increased.

Lymph vessels and glands are situated in the fascia.  The function of the lymphatic system is to protect the body against pathogenic invasion (through immune response), distribute dietary lipids from the gastrointestinal tract to the blood, and drain excess interstitial fluid from tissue.  Scraping therapy can help free any blockages within the lymphatic system and strengthen the circulation of lymph.

Gua sha, in general, boosts circulation providing poorly nourished areas with blood to both feed tissue and eliminate waste materials.  By stimulating an area of the body, the therapy’s deep massaging action can help detoxify and tonify the area.

Depending on how many body parts are to be addressed, a typical therapy session can last from 15 to 45 minutes.  Like most types of bodywork, the treated areas will include both the areas that contribute to the condition. They mainly include the site of pain as well as the chest, arms, legs, back, and neck.

First, the practitioner applies lotion or oil on the areas to be treated.  The practitioner will then use a smooth edged tool to stroke the treatment areas.  Stroking will be repeated until the sha is released.

As the tissue releases sha, a red rash called petechiae will arise.  The rash’s discoloration provides the practitioner clues to the severity and nature of the condition being treated.  It may take four to seven days for the rash to disappear.  Light aerobic exercise like walking as well as stretching can quicken the healing of the rash.

Gua sha therapy can be compared to an extremely profound massage.  You might feel excruciatingly intense pain one moment only to be replaced with an overwhelmingly relaxing feeling the next.  The practitioner should take into account your level of sensitivity; however, as with the rest of our existence, in order to bring about healing and growth, there are often periods of discomfort that cannot be avoided.

The practitioner may give the patient a cup of warm water after a session and advise him or her to relax and rest.  Drinking adequate amounts of water will help wash all the toxins released by the procedure. Drinking lots of water after treatment is very important since by not doing so, it can cause the toxins to settle back into the tissue causing lightheadedness and nausea or soreness and stiffness.

After treatment, the patient needs to rest for a day or two. He also needs to protect any treated area from direct exposure to cold, wind, or sun; avoid any strenuous exercises; and refrain from drinking caffeine and alcohol.

In the treatment of chronic pain, Gua sha can be a truly extremely invaluable tool.  It actually is a vital modality in the treatment of almost any disorder given its ability to stimulate and detoxify tissue, release the exterior, boost the production of blood, and eliminate stagnation in the body.