Gua Sha (aka: 'scraping', 'the spoon treatment')
Gua Sha is a manual therapy that has been used for centuries in China, Taiwan, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.
Gua Sha is also known as ‘Scraping’, ‘Spooning’ or ‘Cupping’ and a similar technique, known as ‘Venduzas’, is practised in Traditional Greek Medicine. Modern western Chiropractic utilises the technique under the pseudonym of ‘The Graston Technique’.
Gua Sha 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 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 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.”
Gua Sha will generally leave a temporary mark on the skin that disappears completely in 2-4 days. This is a normal and an intended side-effect and does not harm the flesh at all. An important fact to note is that: if there is no stagnation, 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.
For more information please see the excellent book GUA SHA: A Traditional technique for Modern Practice by Arya Neilsen
Cupping is often done traditionally with the use of ‘fire’. A small flame is used to reduce the oxygen in a small glass vessel or cup and then placed on the skin. The effect is that there is a vaccum seal created and this pulls the skin, muscle fibres and connective tissue into the cup.
Due to the various clinical considerations, Kaitlin uses hand pumped glass cups like those used in the Korean and Japanese traditions. These are easier to control, can be used without the fire component and are generally more comfortable.
There are various techniques and ways of using cups for health benefits, and one must be trained to to use cupping effectively.