OK, so I'm putting up some information on this gua sha thing in case people are interested. I'd never heard of it...and I thought it was sketch when I was doing it, especially when I saw my back afterward! But I have a pleasant feeling of wellbeing now, which was enhanced by my quickie research on the topic. Here's what I found...
Gua Sha--Scraping for a Cure
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The release of the movie, "Gua Sha/The Treatment" unveiled a Chinese medical practice that astounded many westerners. The little boy in the movie was left with severe bruises on his back after a "Gua Sha" session. Those who are ignorant of the traditional Chinese medicine practice would be excused for dismissing the cure as "abuse" or "witch craft." However in Chinese medicine, Gua Sha is an effective method of curing a number of diseases. So the big question is—does the Gua Sha Treatment really work?
Is Gua Sha Scientific?
Gua Sha therapy is closely related to the theory of meridians, one of the most important Chinese medical theories. The theory of meridians provides not only the theoretical foundation for diagnosis, but also guides treatments such as acupuncture, massage, Qigong and Gua Sha.
The meridians (经 jing) and collaterals (络 luo) are pathways in which Qi and blood circulate. They form a specific network that communicates with the internal organs and limbs and connects the upper to the lower and the exterior to the interior portions of the body. In the ancient Chinese medical book The Yellow Emperor's Canon of Internal Medicine it recorded the six meridians (六经 liu jing), namely, the Taiyang, Yangming, Shaoyang, Taiyin, Shaoyin, and Jueyin meridians. Zhang Zhongjing (150—219 A.D.), famous physician of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25—220A.D.) wrote the book Treatise on Cold Diseases and Miscellaneous Disorders which also gave brief and accurate descriptions of symptoms for diseases of each meridian. Furthermore, it was his rich clinical experience that helped bring about this medical theory. The principle of Gua sha is similar to that of acupuncture in which different points in the patient's body are stimulated.
According to Chinese medicine, when external coldness or negative energy invades the body a disease develops. Thus people will have some physical discomfort such as dizziness, vomiting and pain. Gua sha can stimulate blood flow and remove coldness, negative energy, toxic-heat and lymphatic fluid from the body through the skin. Through the process, more blood serum is produced, thus improving the body's immune system.
However, western medicine and Chinese medicine have contrasting views on the origin of diseases, hence leading to different treatments. Western medicine emphasizes exterior factors like viruses and microbes that lead to disease where as Chinese medicine places more emphasis on the internal human body. In other words, if the body is strong and healthy the organs will naturally protect themselves from diseases. Chinese physicians have tried to find treatments to improve the function of the six meridians. Western physicians, quite differently, tried to make effective for eliminating bacteria in the body. Chinese medicine physiology is based on the activity of Qi throughout the body, while Western medicine physiology is based on anatomy. Both medical practices can exist side by side.
What is Gua Sha?
"Sha" refers to the sudden attack of illness such as sunstroke and dry cholera during the summer and autumn seasons. It also refers to rashes. The term "Gua" means, "to scrape." Before the actual Gua Sha treatment begins, liquid medicine is rubbed on the painful area or acupoints to stimulate blood circulation in the body. The therapist then scrapes the skin with a jade or horn blade from top to bottom according to the direction of blood flow. Some blood capillaries break and release the red blood cell, hemoglobin. Such stimulation can promote blood circulation and remove obstruction in the collateral and toxins from the body, which then relieves pain. Though red, purple or black bruises appear after the scraping, during the treatment, the patient rarely feels any pain.
What does Gua Sha Treat?
Gua Sha can provide drug-free relief from back, neck, leg and shoulder pain. It is widely used to cure measles, a disease most commonly contracted in the summer and autumn seasons. It can also relieve some women's problems such as period pain, lack of periods, insufficient lactation, and climacteric syndrome. Gua Sha, like acupuncture, massage and Qi Gong is also a magical method of improving health.
Gua Sha - Chinese Health Care
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When I go to China, one of the first things I do is get a gua sha treatment from my friend, Dr. Charles Li
. It relieves all the aches from the 22 hours of traveling, and stress related to it, and helps me get over my jet lag as well as get a good sleep. Gua sha is an extremely effective and relatively simple traditional Chinese treatment, but almost impossible to find information about it in China.
When I went to the jade market in Xiuyan, I couldn't find gua sha tools. But as soon as I asked a seller if she had gua sha tools, every seller who had gua sha tools started bringing them to me, smiling, and surprise a "foreigner" knew about this.
When I went to the traditional Chinese pharmacies, many of them had gua sha oil. But I could not find any books about gua sha in the book stores in Beijing, even in the foreign language book store. Dr. Li explained to me that gua sha is more of a home remedy, and such a small part of traditional Chinese medicine that it is rarely given any consideration in the literature. He uses it frequently and finds it very useful. He provides traditional Chinese medical treatment to "foreigners" who sometimes are afraid to have acupuncture, or don't like the taste of Chinese herbal medicine. Gua sha used with stimulating acupressure points has been very effective and helpful in his practice.
Gua Sha is an ancient therapeutic practice that began in China centuries ago. It remains a popular practice in China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Southeast Asia. Gua means to scrape or rub. Sha is a reddish, elevated "millet like" skin rash. Sha is the term used to describe blood stasis in the subcutaneous tissue before and after it is raised at petechiae. IGua sha is used for pain associated with an acute or chronic disorder. The affected person may feel aching, tenderness and/or a knotted feeling in the muscles. When normal finger pressure on the person's skin causes blanching that is slow to fade, sha may be suspected. Gua sha is used to treat and prevent acute conditions such as common cold or flu, asthma, bronchitis as well as chronic problems involving pain and congestion of the qi and blood.
Gua sha is applied primarily on the back, neck, shoulders, buttock and limbs of the body. Advanced practitioners may also raise sha on the chest and abdomen.To apply gua sha, first lubricate the area with oil. If you do not have gua sha oil, you can use White Flower or any other oil. If there are any moles, cuts or unhealed areas, cover them with your fingers. Do not apply the gua sha tool to these kinds of areas. Hold the gua sha tool at a thirty degree angle to the skin, the smooth edge will touch the skin.
Gua sha stroke areas
Rub the skin in downward strokes using moderate pressure. The person should not feel pain although it might feel uncomfortable. Stroke one area at a time, until the petechia of that surface is completely raised and all the sha is up, which is when stroking no longer increases the number of dots or changes the color. Then move to the next area.The sha petechiae should fade in about 2-4 days. If it is very slow to fade, it indicates poor blood circulation and there may be more serious deficiency that will require additional treatments with combination of acupuncture or acupressure in specific areas.
Since gua sha moves stuck qi and blood, the person receiving gua sha will probably feel immediate changes in their condition. It is a very useful treatment for external and internal conditions and treats both acute and chronic disorders.
Gua sha treatment can be used up to three times weekly, and is most effective when used as a weekly treatment on chronic conditions.
NOTE: "Blood" refers to the traditional Chinese medicine definition, and is not the western body blood.