Guasha has been used for centuries in China, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam to treat a variety of problems, such as:
- muscular pain
- myo-fascial restriction
- post-trauma syndromes
- immune dysfunction
Guasha is also known as ‘Scraping’, ‘Spooning’ or ‘Frictioning’ and a similar technique, known as ‘Venduzas’, is practiced in Traditional Greek Medicine. Modern western Chiropractic utilises the technique under the pseudonym of ‘The Graston Technique’.
Guasha is considered to be an Adaptogenic technique and facilitates the restoration of normal function of the muscles, fascia and immune system. Gua Sha is used to clear areas of stagnation from the muscles and connective tissue, to stimulate healing and to allow fresh blood and nutrients to flow properly again.
The term Sha refers to Stagnation of Blood in the tissues of the body and had been translated as: “Sand-sickness” or “Sediment” in the flesh. Sha is different to simple muscular tension, because the condition is usually more chronic or long-standing and will not resolve with or respond to standard massage techniques. A practitioner skilled in Palpation or ‘touch diagnosis’ can identify Sha by the characteristic changes in the texture of the flesh that occur due to the deposition of metabolic wastes. The presence of Sha can be felt as toughness, tightness, grittiness or knots within the muscles and connective tissue. A western-trained practitioner might also call Sha “Fibrositis.”
Viruses, such as the flu or common cold, can also produce Sha, due to the effect of fever and other metabolic processes the body uses to get rid of these pathogens. Many people experience this kind of Sha as the head and neck aches that often accompany a cold or flu.
To perform Guasha, the skin over the affected area is first coated with a thick ‘chest-rub’ style liniment to protect the skin from friction. The skin and muscles are then pressed and scraped with the curved edge of the Guasha tool, (often a Chinese ceramic soup-spoon), to raise the irritants out of the knotted muscles and into the dermis, where the rich blood-supply can then flush them away.
Guasha is not painful, but it can leave a temporary mark on the skin that disappears completely in 2-4 days. This is a normal and intended side-effect and does not harm the flesh at all.
An important fact to note is that: if there is no stagnation of blood, then there will be no mark induced. This can be seen after repeated treatments, when the sha can no longer be raised in an area previously treated.
The effect is usually immediate relief.
People report feeling relieved of pain and stiffness which has been plaguing them for months or even years. Mobility is usually restored to previously trapped muscles and joints and increased flexibility is usually observed.
Cupping is done using a smooth-edged glass cup in which a vacuum is briefly created, through either a hand pump as with the Japanese glass cups, or with the induction of a cool flame in the case of Chinese fire cupping. The cup is quickly applied to the skin over an area of stagnation and is used to draw stagnation out of deeper muscle structures. Cupping is commonly used to treat old or lingering sporting injuries.