A new fitness trend called gua sha could be the answer you are looking for regarding muscle and joint soreness. However, unless you have already had the treatment or know someone who has, you likely have a lot of questions about this therapy. Let’s take a closer look at this treatment and how it could help you.
What is Gua Sha?
Gua sha, also known as scraping, is a Traditional Chinese Medicine therapy that involves using a tool to “scrape” the skin to improve circulation. The therapist will apply massage oil and pressure to the body in long strokes with a smooth tool he or she holds in their hand.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the therapy is meant to address stagnant energy or chi in the body and improve its flow through the body. Per Healthline, proponents of this idea believe when the chi is not flowing, it creates inflammation in the body, which is the source of chronic pain. The idea is that when you improve the flow of energy, you reduce this inflammation and increase the body’s ability to recover and heal.
From a western standpoint, gua sha is thought to split up scar tissue and smooth out connective tissues. This effect encourages blood flow throughout the body and improves how joints and muscles move. The treatment is also a standard method for treating muscle pain and tension.
Some physiotherapists in the west also employ the technique because using the hand tool allows them to apply more pressure than they can with their hands. However, they call it instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) and use it alongside stretching and strengthening exercises.
At K2 Crossfit, our trainer Kevin Kim performs gua sha therapy along with Cannabidiol (CBD) cream, a pioneer in this technique. CBD is one of the non-psychoactive extractions from the flowers and buds of marijuana plants (read: it won’t get you high).
Per Healthline, studies have shown that CBD can decrease chronic pain by interacting with your bodies neurotransmitters. The combination of the natural stimulation of Gua Sha with the effects of CBD oil can lead to pain relief that you haven’t experienced before.
Conditions Gua Sha Can Address
As a natural therapy, gua sha is considered safe. Many people turn to this treatment when conventional therapy doesn’t seem to be making a difference in their symptoms.
Per Medical News Today, the most common conditions that gua sha treats include:
- Muscle and joint pain, e.g., back pain, strained tendons, carpal tunnel syndrome.
- Minor colds and fevers
- Lung conditions or problems
- Breaking up scar tissue
- Fibrosis, or buildup of connective tissue during the healing process
- Repetitive strain injuries
Gua sha is also often used to treat symptoms of other health conditions, like:
- Hepatitis B: Proponents believe it can address chronic liver inflammation.
- Migraines: It could help when other medications don’t work.
- Breast engorgement: Gua sha can help women who are breastfeeding to avoid discomfort from breasts that produce too much milk.
- Neck pain: Research suggests that it can reduce discomfort for chronic sufferers.
- Tourette’s: In one case, a patient experienced a 70 percent reduction in symptoms after treatment.
- Perimenopause: The symptoms of perimenopause can reduce the common symptoms of this condition as women approach menopause.
Are There Side Effects?
It is natural to wonder if gua sha will hurt, but experts say it isn’t painful. However, because it involves scraping the skin with a little tool and a lot of pressure, the tiny capillaries just under the surface of your skin can break during the treatment, which can result in bruising.
The bruises can be red or purple and tender to the touch. However, they will fade after a few days to a week. Icing and over-the-counter ibuprofen dosage can relieve the discomfort if any.
The other side effect could be small amounts of bleeding from the broken capillaries. The potential for bleeding is one of many reasons why you should have a professional therapist administer the treatment because they will follow the proper disinfection protocols between patients.
Fitness trends come and go. However, gua sha has been around for thousands of years. If you feel like you have some issues that gua sha might address, find a licensed therapist, and give it a try. As a safe and natural therapy, you don’t have anything to lose—except for some chronic pain and discomfort.