Muscle Scraping Therapy (Gua Sha): What It Is & Does

Pain in the back and shoulders

Last Updated on March 15, 2024

When it comes to working out and sports training, recovery times are an unfortunate necessity. Exercise and other physical activities strain your muscles and push your body to its limits. However, doing so damages these muscles, thus forcing them to grow back more robust than they were before. This is why recovery times are necessary; they give your body a chance to heal in between bouts of physical activity. 

Similarly, recovery times are necessary in the case of injury. The body needs time to heal itself, or it will not be able to fully address the problems caused by the injury. 

However, time spent recovering is time that could have been spent training. What if there was a way to reduce recovery time without sacrificing the benefits? 

While recovery times are still necessary in many situations, there are ways to reduce the amount of time that needs to be spent on recovery. One of these is scraping therapy. Doing so allows you to spend more time working out or training because you will have to spend less time recovering. 

Related: What is Sports Medicine Acupuncture?

The History of Gua Sha

Many athletes and sports trainers are using forms of scraping therapy or Gua Sha to speed recovery times, reduce pain and improve performance. Scraping therapies are known collectively as Gua Sha in traditional Chinese medicine.  Many physical therapists use the same techniques but call them Graston techniques. This is because they were popularized in America by athlete David Graston. He used the scraping technique to deal with a knee injury he suffered from at the time. 

However, gua sha dates back to a point long before its introduction to America. The techniques were developed centuries ago by Chinese physicians to treat painful muscles and joints. They have been used since their discovery and have become a key feature in many types of traditional Chinese medicines. Their effectiveness has allowed them to survive into the present, which is a testament to how well they work.

Woman stretching before exercising

How Does Scraping Therapy Work?

Gua sha is an effective technique that utilizes various items, traditionally ceramic, stone, or metal tools, which are then scraped across the skin. This is why the method is referred to as scraping therapy. 

However, there is a specific process used to make this work. First, the body is prepared with oil, balm, or lotion, similar to those used in massages or other treatments. Then, the body is scraped with one of the items listed above. This scraping is hard and firm, enough that it is slightly painful. However, it is not so hard that it causes damage. In this way, the technique is similar to exercise, where a little pain is required to force the body to achieve great results. 

This scraping accomplishes the actual healing. The scraping is done to a specific degree so that it is just enough to produce a superficial reaction from the skin cells involved in the scraping. This initial bit of pain and irritation from within these cells starts a response that triggers an even more significant reaction from within the body.  

Related: Who should I see when I’m in pain?

Increased Blood Flow

This starts as soon as the rest of the body senses something is occurring on the skin. The body realizes that the area is irritated and slightly damaged. So, it sends additional blood into the area in and around the skin. 

This rush of fresh blood into the area accomplishes several different effects. First, it is believed that it releases unhealthy material from the area. This includes damaged cells and anything else slowing down the healing process. Think of it like a car wash. The rush of blood is like a jet stream of fresh water, and these harmful materials are like dirt on the car. In the end, the new material washes away the old material and leaves the area clean and sparkling.

In addition, the increased blood flow is thought to kick start the healing process. Your blood carries all your body’s vital nutrients and everything else it needs to be healthy. When you are injured, the factors contributing to your recovery are administered to the injury through your blood. 

So, by increasing the blood flow into a specific area, you end up healing faster. Think of the blood as the fuel needed to power the healing factors already present in your body. With a fresh flow of blood, your body has everything it needs to heal itself. 

This is how scraping helps. It encourages your blood to flow to a specific place on your skin and, by doing so, causes an increase in blood flow in the entire area. This can occur because everything your body needs to heal itself is already present within the body. All it needs is a little bit of a jump start regarding distribution. 

Suffering from an injury? Check out what to expect with Inner Gate Health & Wellness!

Break Down Tissue

In addition, scraping therapy can help break down scar tissue and fascia restrictions. This is usually associated with soft-tissue trauma, such as a strained muscle. It can also help by stretching connective tissue to encourage the rearrangement of the soft tissue structure. In this case, the scraping reduces restrictions that could impair quick healing. 

Overall, the process is relatively simple. If you are dealing with an arm injury, you only have to administer the scraping technique on that arm. Doing so stimulates blood flow in the area. This removes harmful material while adding helpful material. In the end, this helps your arm as a whole. 

This technique is used to treat many soft tissue injuries. These injuries can range from minor injuries to larger ones. Acupuncturists use the technique to treat areas of chronic inflammation, fascial adhesions, and areas of pain. The method is also regularly used to help reduce recovery times and heal general injuries. 

Related: 5 Best Sports Medicine Clinic in Portland, OR

The Importance of a Professional Practitioner

However, as this method deals with abrasives rubbed on the skin, it is vital to perform it correctly. Performing the procedure incorrectly may cause damage to the skin or general injury. In some cases, drawing blood with improperly cleaned instruments may lead to infection, which has the potential to go on to create even more severe health problems. This is why having the practice administered by a professional is far better than attempting to do it at home. 

Professionals can administer the technique in a way that is both safe and effective. Specifically, the professionals at Inner Gate Health & Wellness can handle this procedure with the precision it requires. Our skilled clinicians can easily adjust the intensity of the technique, depending on your personal preference. This allows them to do what is necessary for healing, getting deep into the tissue without causing undo pain. Often localized discoloration will occur, similar to those marks seen with cupping therapy, but it will clear in a few days. 

In the end, your body is given a leg up on the healing process, and you are able to get back to your workout or your sport faster than before.    

Want to heal faster from your injury? Set up an appointment with us today!

Working with a professional practitioner

Could Scraping Therapy Help You Heal?

Gua sha is a great way to:

  • Break up scar tissue
  • Restore normal range of motion
  • Reduce pain
  • Improve performance

If you are interested in scraping therapy or gua sha, consider having the procedure done with Inner Gate Acupuncture. 
CLICK HERE to see all of the services provided at Inner Gate Acupuncture.

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