Gua Sha, meaning “scarping sha-bruises”, known as a healing technique of traditional east Asian medicine in which the skin is scraped to produce light bruising. Practitioners believe gua sha releases unhealthy elements from injured areas and stimulates blood flow and healing. Gua sha is sometimes referred to as “spooning” or “coining” or “scraping” by English speakers, it has also been given the descriptive French name, tribo-effleurage. It is also defined as instrument assisted unidirectional press-stroking of a lubricated area of the body surface to intentionally create transitory therapeutic petechiae called “sha” representing extravasation of blood in the subcutaneous.
What Are The Techniques Using in Gua Sha?
Gua sha involves repeated pressured strokes over lubricated skin with a smooth edge. Skin is typically lubricated with massage oil and commonly a ceramic Chinese soup spoon was used, or a well worn coin, even honed animal bones, water buffalo horn, or jade. A simply metal cap with a rounded edge is commonly used.
In cases of fatigue from heavy work, a piece of ginger root soaked in rice wine is sometimes used to rub down the spine from head to feet. The smooth edge is placed against the oiled skin surface, pressed down firmly, and then moved down the muscles – hence the term tribo-effleurage (friction-stroking) – or along the pathway of acupuncture meridians, along the surface of the skin, with each stroke being about 4-6 inches long.
This causes extravasation of blood from the peripheral capillaries and may result in sub-cutaneous blemishing, which usually takes 2-4 days to fade. Sha rash does not represent capillary rupture as in bruising, as is evidenced by the immediate fading of the markings to echymosis, and rapid resolution of sha as compared to bruising. Practitioners tend to follow the tradition they were taught to obtain sha: typically using either gua sha or fire cupping. The techniques are sometimes used together.
What does Gua Sha Treat?
Gua Sha is used to treat and prevent the common cold, flu, bronchitis, asthma, and pain both acute and chronic. It is also used to detoxify the body, and fevers as the scraping brings the excess heat and toxins to the surface of the body to the released.
When used for pain there may be an achy feeling, tenderness or knotted feeling in the muscles. It is excellent for treating cold or flu especially if there are respiratory problems or high fever. Any problems of qi or blood stagnation can be successfully treated with Gua Sha.
Gua Sha has a special function to relieve fevers and inflammation of respiratory system, and performs very well in conjunction with acupuncture and cupping for these conditions.
What does the Sha tell you?
The color and intensity of the Sha is both diagnostic and prognostic. If the Sha is very light in color it indicates a deficiency of blood. If the Sha is a fresh and intense red, it means the condition is acute and has not yet penetrated deep into the body. If the Sha is black or purple in color it indicates blood stagnation which means the condition has been long standing. If the Sha is brown, there may be dryness in the body and a deficiency of Fluids. Dark deep red Sha indicates heat. The Sha is good reflection of detoxification and fever release.
How is Gua Sha Applied?
The area of skin to be treated is applied with oil as a lubricating medium. The acupuncturist then takes the Gua Sha tool and stokes the skin in a downward motion until the petechia from. It there is no blood stasis, stagnation or fever, a rash (petechiae) will not form the skin will only turn pink.
Gua Sha is stimulating to the immune system, detoxifies, increases circulation, regulates organ function, normalized metabolic processes, removes stagnation and eases pain. After a Gua Sha treatment, a patient usually feels a shift or release especially if there was pain. There is often sweating which is the body’s way of releasing toxins that have been inside the body. Gua Sha revitalizes, rejuvenates, helps diminish stree, fatigue and severe exhaustion. It helps to release emotion, relaxes the body and helps to clear the mind and senses. Gua Sha is a simple treatment, but incredibly effective for many ailments which is why it has been used in China and South East Asia for thousands of years
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