In today’s blog, I will be discussing Gua Sha. This is one of the many treatments we provide in my practice. One of my clinics is located in Miami, and that is why I will call this blog Gua Sha Miami.

Gua Sha Miami

So, you may be wondering what Gua Sha is. Gua Sha is a hands-on manual myofascial release technique that uses instruments to scrape the skin and fascia. And you may remember from a previous blog that fascia is a thin tissue that goes around our muscles. 

Before I discuss the benefits of Gua Sha, let’s discuss the origins of this ancient treatment. 

First of all, what are the origins of Gua Sha?

Gua Sha Origins
Gua Sha Origins

Gua Sha is an ancient Chinese Medicine practice from over 2000 years ago. Gua means scraping, and Sha means sand when translated from Chinese to English. It has also been known as spooning, coining, and scraping throughout other cultures.

According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), energy flowing through the body is “Qi” or “Chi.” And, it is believed that the body’s energy must be balanced and flow freely to help the body circulate nutrients and minerals to improve health and well-being.  

Furthermore, Qi blockage allows diseases and pain to grow. Blood stasis or blood stagnation is often considered a source of illness and pain. 

In fact, many people believe that the Qi can become blocked due to stress and anxiety, resulting in reduced blood flow or stagnation.

Gua Sha Treatment
Gua Sha Treatment

Gua Sha treatment aims to improve blood flow, improve circulation, and disperse stagnant blood in the affected area. 

As a result, mild bruising often occurs, resulting from blood flowing to the skin’s surface to alleviate symptoms. 

So, what tools are used during a Gua Sha treatment?

The original Gua Sha tools were made of stone, sharpened wood, and even out of animals’ horns. As society evolved, it began to use porcelain spoons, coins, jar caps, and plastic tools. Most recently, it uses stainless steel instruments that are easier to cleanse for infection control purposes.

Gua Sha tools

Next, how is Gua Sha performed?

The practitioner will apply oil or cream over the skin area to reduce shear and friction force. This allows the tool to glide along the surface of the skin, creating a soft scraping sensation. 

The practitioner will perform repeated strokes until the skin appears red or with tiny red dots called petechiae. This coloring of the skin usually lasts 3-5 days. 

It is important to note that these rash, bruise-like, or petechiae will fade away. So, don’t be alarmed if you see it.

Gua Sha treatment
Gua Sha treatment

So patients ask me, does Gua Sha hurt?

Even though the appearance of the skin is red or looks slightly bruised, Gua Sha gives minimal discomfort. A person should not feel a sharp pain during a Gua Sha session. The practitioner, and often the patient, feel a sensation as if the tool is sliding over sand or small pebbles. Hence the translation of its Chinese name (Gua = scrapping, Sha = sand)

Gua Sha Treatment
Gua Sha Treatment

So, what are the purposes and benefits of Gua Sha?

Gua Sha causes micro-trauma to the upper layers of our tissues. This initiates our body to heal that area or what is called the healing response. 

Furthermore, Gua Sha stretches the tissue, loosening adhesions (scar-like tissue), and relaxes the muscles. The scraping movement creates a pressure gradient that moves blood and improves lymphatic fluid circulation. It moves blood towards the surface of the skin, which carries toxins and irritants. This enables the body to remove these toxins and irritants more rapidly, stimulating the healing process.

Now, an important question, what are the benefits of Gua Sha?

  • It improves blood circulation
  • It assists in moving lymphatic fluid 
  • It decreases swelling
  • It lowers muscle tension
  • It increases joints’ range of motion
  • It promotes the removal of toxins and irritants 
  • It decreases pain and discomfort
  • It helps the healing process
Gua Sha Treatment
Gua Sha Treatment

So, what conditions does Gua Sha treat?

Gua Sha is mainly used for muscle and joint tightness and discomfort, such as neck pain, back pain, leg pain, etc. In addition, it is also used for rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, traumatic injuries, headaches, migraines, etc. Less commonly, it treats stress, anxiety, and fatigue. 

Now, what is the difference between Gua Sha and IASTM?

IASTM is Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization. Basically, they are the same. IASTM was a trademarked Gua Sha technique by David Graston in the 1990s. It uses western medical anatomy and physiology terminology. Gua Sha being an Oriental Medicine technique, discusses the movement of Qi (energy) and blood. As a result, the outcomes of both are the same. 

Gua Sha Treatment
Gua Sha Treatment

Finally, how often can Gua Sha be performed?

Because Gua Sha is a form of myofascial release, as explained in my last blog, myofascial release should be performed 1-2 times a week for 2-3 months for chronic conditions. 

Therefore, I prescribe Gua Sha 1-2 times a week for the first month for my patients. In addition, I provide my patients with self-myofascial release techniques to perform at home daily. As patients improve, they can go to bi-monthly or monthly maintenance visits while continuing their self-release techniques at home.

How often treatment should occur depends on how the patient responds to treatment and their consistency with their self-myofascial release at home.

Most of all, mobilization of the tissue needs to be consistent. It minimizes the possibility of discomfort and/or symptoms of tightness and stiffness from returning. Treatment by a practitioner and oneself is a lifelong task to maintain overall well-being.

Thomas Chavie, AP, Dipl. OM, PT
Thomas Chavie, AP, Dipl. OM, PT

To wrap up our Gua Sha Miami blog post, 
At HomeopathyX, we perform a complete evaluation to understand the root cause of the patient’s problems. We use a client-centered, individualized approach to ensure that the patient has positive outcomes. Gua Sha is part of the many services we provide to help patients with acute and chronic conditions. 

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