There are many variations of the gua sha technique and different practitioners will apply said techniques in different manners. However, I wish to share how I implement the gua sha technique, along with my rationale for doing so.
In my acupuncture clinic on the occasions where I utilise gua sha, I first apply some oil in a sparring manner to the area I will be working on. The reason for this is that I want to lightly lubricate the area I will be working on as this allows for ease of movement as well as producing a nicer feel for the individual receiving the technique. I then take a ceramic Chinese soup spoon which offers a perfect edge as well as shape to carry out the gua sha technique. The spoon is pressed onto the skin in sweeping yet steady strokes along the trajectory of the local meridian. While I am repeating the motion I am feeling for fascial adhesions which when encountered will cause the skin to become redder then the surrounding skin, as well as give rise the petechiae. Once these fascial adhesions are ‘highlighted’ I then continue to apply the sweeping motion until said fascial adhesions are released.
Thus from the above basic description you can get a feel for the essence of how I utilise the gua sha technique in my acupuncture practice. It is a nice adjunctive form of therapy to classical acupuncture as it can release fascial adhesions that may be restricting the physiological function of the region. The end result being increased mobility and functionality of the region being addressed.
Now, some acupuncturists and body workers may be reading this and thinking that my method is too ‘light’ and you need to get to the point of bruising the region for a therapeutic outcome.
My acupuncture clinical experience as well as basic logic does not support this statement. My intention is to release fascial adhesions, the fascia is between the skin and the muscle and thus it is the loose areolar connective tissue that I am looking at targeting. Thus there is no reason to go too deep. Furthermore, the sign of redness & petechiae is what I look for as this denotes that we have encountered fascial adhesions and thus broken down the connective tissue coagulation which results in a histamine reaction of the skin & subsequently increases blood flow/microcirculation to the local area. ‘Pushing’ to the point of bruising is both counter-intuitive and counter-therapeutic as it denotes stasis of blood which is the opposite effect of what we are intending to induce.
It is interesting to note that the therapy of gua sha dates back to the Han dynasty of China, some 2000 years ago. Yet, even today the basic essence of the technique has been incorporated in a range of professions i.e. osteopaths, chiropractors… There is even a company in America that has caught on to the health benefits gua sha can induce in regards to the treatment of soft tissue injuries and subsequently has marketed it as the ‘Graston Technique’.
I feel that gua sha is a great little adjunctive form of therapy that can be very effective to address fascial adhesions and promote blood circulation in the local area.
As always, feel free to contact me with any questions you may have.
Giancarlo Nerini - Licensed Acupuncturist