by Sara illig
Meridian Scraping Therapy- Gua Sha
Meridian Scraping/Gua sha is an ancient East Asian healing technique taught by only a handful of Western practitioners. In China and Vietnam, scraping is commonly used to relieve the aches and fever associated with the common cold. The Greeks used a similar technique in their daily massage regiments to invigorate the blood and relieve pain. Today, the Graston technique most closely resembles gus sha. In the garçon technique the main difference is they invented their own metal tool to use instead of a traditional gua sha tool, and they re-named it for modern day marketing purposes.
Scraping therapy can be used to address various sorts of conditions. Most commonly used to treat body pain, to boost the immune system and to relieve symptoms of the common cold, this modality can also be used to generally balance the flow of chi through the meridians, to resolve certain psychospiritual issues and to innervate areas of poor circulation such as adipose tissue which can have both a detoxifying and contouring effect.
Gua sha provides lasting relief for chronic pain. There are a variety of both western and eastern mechanisms that contribute to and explain the results.
As the practitioner strokes over muscle spasms that have become entrenched “knots”, the pain-spasm-pain cycle which keeps muscles tensed in a protective response is broken allowing the muscle to relax.
Stroking over an area brings blood carrying oxygen and nutrients to tissue that has been deprived. The blood then carries away built up toxins like lactic acid.
Frictioning the tissue warms the underlying support structure, fascia. Fascia crystallizes and individual strands begin to “glue” together for various reasons including misuse, repetitive trauma, overuse and deposits of toxins. Warming this tissue returns it to its natural gelatinous state and ‘melts’ any adhesions that may have formed. Once muscular tension and adhesions are released, the body is able to realize its original structure.
Eastern philosophies recognize that exogenous factors like wind, heat, cold, and damp become trapped in the exterior layer of the body causing pain by obstructing the flow of chi and blood in the channels. Scraping techniques are the most effective way of releasing these pathogens from the exterior and encouraging the free flow of chi and blood.
Besides pain relief, Gua sha has many other benefits. By removing meridian obstructions, gua sha promotes the free flow of chi and blood, balancing the body and addressing almost any presenting illness.
Blood stasis impedes the production of new blood. Once the stagnation is removed, new blood will be created again. Blood is the material basis of our minds. When deficient of blood, an individual has a difficult time with self esteem issues, creating boundaries and emotional flexibility. Blood deficiency will present a variety of other problems including muscular pain and lack of flexibility, lack of energy, dizziness, etc… By engendering the production of new blood, scraping treats both the psychospiritual and the physical problems associated with blood deficiency.
Just like Rolfing or other modalities of deep bodywork, scraping can instigate emotional release. If the muscles are “holding” emotions, as they relax, these emotions will be freed and should be accepted, experienced, and resolved. As this happens, old issues that have been trapped in the muscles of the body naturally resolve.
Scraping acts on fascia. Every organ, nerve, vein, artery, and muscle is sheathed in envelopes of fascia. By stroking the superficial fascia, deeper structures will be affected and their performance is enhanced.
Lymph glands and vessels are located in the fascia. The lymphatic system is responsible for draining excess interstitial fluid from tissue, transporting dietary lipids from the gastrointestinal tract to the blood, and protecting against invasion through immune response. Gua sha will promote the circulation of lymph and free any restrictions within the lymphatic system.
Scraping enhances circulation in general providing undernourished areas with blood to both feed tissue and remove waste products. As an area is innervated, it will be detoxified and toned by the deep massaging action of the stroke.
A session will last from fifteen to forty five minutes depending on how many areas will be addressed. As with any sort of bodywork, the areas treated will include both the site of pain and also areas that contribute to the condition – primarily the neck, back, legs, arms, and chest.
First, oil or lotion will be applied. Then, the practitioner will use a smooth edged tool to stroke over the area. Stroking will continue until the sha is released.
A red rash called petechiae will appear as the tissue releases. The discoloration of the rash offers clues as to the nature and severity of the condition being addressed. It will take several days (generally 4 and up to 7) for the rash to fade. Stretching and light aerobic exercise like walking will hasten the rash’s healing.
Scraping is similar to a very deep massage. One moment might feel excruciatingly intense, the next overwhelmingly relaxing. The practitioner will respond to your level of sensitivity; however, as with the rest of our existence, there are often moments of discomfort that cannot be avoided in order to bring about growth and healing.
After a session, a cup of warm water is recommended, and be sure to rest and relax. Also, drink a large amount of water to clear all the toxins released by the treatment. If not, the toxins will settle back into the tissue causing stiffness and soreness or nausea and lightheadedness.
For a day or so after the treatment, avoid alcohol, caffeine and strenuous exercise and be sure to protect any treated area from direct exposure to sun, wind, or cold.
Gua sha is an indispensable tool in the treatment of chronic pain. In fact, it is a relevant tool in treating almost any disorder given its ability to clear stagnation, to engender the creation of blood, to release the exterior and to innervate and detoxify tissue.