People suffering from back pain, neck pain and sciatica can finally experience sweet relief with a little-known Chinese secret called “Gua Sha”.
This procedure is popular in China and parts of Southeast Asia as an effective method for treating a number of diseases. In the western world, the approach has yet to become widely known. Where it is known, it’s often misunderstood.
“Gua” literally means to scrape or rub. “Sha” actually has a double meaning. On one hand it speaks of sand. The name refers to both the action and the visual result of the treatment. Gua Sha involves scraping the skin with the smooth or rounded edge of an instrument to encourage the formation of petechiae, which appear as red spots on the surface of the skin sometimes resembling the texture of sand.
This form of therapy is misunderstood because of the red marks left on the skin once the procedure is complete. To the untrained eye, the red marks on the skin can give the impression that the patient has been abused, or endured a significant level of pain.
When the treatment begins, the skin is lubricated with massage oil. The person performing the technique will use one of several instruments which may include the back of a spoon, the edge of a coin, the rounded edge of a metal cap, or other instruments fashioned specifically for the Gua Sha procedure.
Your therapist will begin by pressing firmly upon the skin over the affected muscle. Next… they will start scraping along the length of the muscle in quick strokes about 5 inches long. The aim is to create just enough friction through the rubbing motion to cause blood to exit the capillaries. The scraping causes the appearance of “sha”, or petechiae, which fade within a few days.
While we describe the process as “scraping”, it’s not at all painful. Skilled professionals know exactly how to apply enough pressure to increase circulation to the injured area without causing discomfort. Many patients have even described the treatment as very relaxing.
While the back and forth motion produces marks on the skin that look like a wound, this is not to be confused with the rupture of capillaries that happens when a bruise results from an injury. The marks on the skin referred to as “sha” indicate the lack of normal blood flow in the affected area. In reality, the darker “sha” marks are an indicator of the nature and severity of poor blood circulation in the body.
Gua Sha promotes healthy circulation by moving the old stagnant blood out of your capillaries so fresh oxygen-rich blood can flow through the area again. This restores your body’s normal process of filtering and recycling body throughout your body.
How Does “Gua Sha” Eliminate Back Pain?
Quite often, back pain is related to an injury to a muscle (known as a strain) or a ligament (referred to as a sprain). Strains and sprains come from several factors, including improper lifting, excess body weight and poor posture.
Strains and sprains can also result from carrying a heavy handbag or sleeping in an awkward position. With the lower back being a pivot point for various movements, it can be exceptionally vulnerable to injury.
Sometimes a strain or sprain causes immediate back pain. In other cases, soreness and stiffness come hours or days later. An injured muscle may also ‘knot up’. This muscle spasm is your body’s way of immobilizing the affected area to prevent further damage.
Gua sha is effective in ending back pain because the rubbing or scraping of the muscles promotes circulation where it was previously diminished. When back muscle fibers are damaged, several steps must occur before regeneration can take place.
The dead muscle fibers must be removed by special cells called macrophages. These cells migrate to the damaged area through the bloodstream, so if the blood supply to the injured area has been significantly damaged, regeneration cannot take place until new blood vessels penetrate that area.
That’s where Gua Sha comes in. Stagnant blood in an injured back will begin to evacuate the capillaries due to this procedure, and new blood comes along replace it. As the blood flow and circulation are improved, the process of healing moves forward.
Since Gua Sha is essentially a treatment designed to correct stagnation and promote the free flow of blood throughout the body, its indications vary widely. Gua Sha is used to successfully treat fever, fatigue, poor circulation, muscle and tendon injury or soreness, and respiratory afflictions.