Gua: (scraping), Sha: (bruising)
Gua Sha is an ancient traditional Chinese healing treatment dating back to over 2000 years. It is a technique where the skin is scraped and bruising develops. It is used to help relieve muscle pain, improve mobility and breakdown adhesions and scar tissue that lie beneath the skin, allowing toxins, blockages and impurities to be released from the body. The scraping of the muscles brings, along with it warmth and redness to the skin as the blood flow increases to the surface. Often small bright red areas or spots appear and these are the areas in which tissues are experiencing a restriction or stagnation and are best focused on to improve their function.
When tissue fibers in muscle and fascia are in parallel alignment, they are smooth and elastic like and move freely without restriction. However, injuries related to sports; car accidents, surgeries and activities with repetitive movements can lead to muscular tears or a build up of adhesions over time, resulting in decreased mobility, that often results in pain or restricted movements. Using the Gua Sha technique, over worked and injured tissues will be given new life and function.
Gua Sha is performed by first applying a thin layer of oil or balm to the body to help with gliding and to reduce friction on the skin. A smooth, rounded Gua Sha tool or stone is then used to apply short and long strokes parallel to the spine or other bony segments (knee, shoulder, shin etc.) at a moderate pace, pressure and following in one direction. The repetitive strokes will cause areas of the tissue to raise, as well as bumps, bruising and red pigmentation to appear. The length of time it takes for the sha (bruising) to disappear depends on the individual, the body part worked on, the length of the treatment and the pigmentation that has developed.
No!! Many individuals enjoy it!
Looking at an individual that has received a Gua Sha treatment, it may have you thinking that they are in pain, however, the treatment is not painful. The bruising varies for individuals depending on the sensitivity of their skin, injuries, pressure of the treatment and length of time spent on the area. The darker the pigmentation of the skin, the more affected that area is. The bruising itself is not tender and can appear quite shocking at times but within 24-48 hours it will decrease tremendously and the results will be increased mobility and movement of the surrounding muscles and joints, improved blood circulation and overall healing of the body.
The most common reason to have a Gua Sha treatment is to help decrease pain both acute and chronic. Chinese medicine often refers to pain as a symptom of a blockage or stagnation of blood and qi (energy) in the affected muscles or meridians (energy channels) and this technique is used to breakdown theses blockages, adhesions and restrictions. It helps to stimulate fresh blood flow and energy, resulting in less pain and better function and mobility in the region of the body. Gua Sha stimulates blood flow throughout the muscles affecting the body’s natural pain reducing system, blocking pathways and receptors that signal pain, thereby reducing or eliminating pain.
Gua Sha treatments typically last between 30 to 45 minutes and it is suggested that your first treatment be shorter in length. You can integrate Gua Sha into a massage treatment as well, this is known as Gua Sha Massage. This allows a portion of the treatment to be devoted to Gua Sha, while using the remainder of time to treat the body with massage. These two modalities combined are extremely effective in healing the body.
After the treatment is completed, the area(s) worked on should be left to rest from 5-7 days and should be clear of Sha (bruising) before having further treatment. While one area of the body is recovering, you may have other areas treated to help your overall healing.