How Does Gua Sha Work – A Possible Explanation?
Leaving aside the Traditional Chinese Medicine explanation of Gua Sha, which while it may have validity within the context of the TCM paradigm lacks the more objective approach of the modern scientific construct, it would appear that the accumulation of metabolic wastes in the bodies tissues and their removal via the Gua Sha process is a possible explanation for the phenomenon of Sha and the effectiveness of Gua Sha as a treatment.
Since the amount of Sha marks decreases with subsequent treatments clearly something is being removed from the tissue and just as clearly this removal generally has a beneficial effect on the existing condition. It is known that tight, constricted myo-fascial tissue will become compromised in terms of blood supply and lymphatic drainage (ie its capacity to remove wastes from the tissue). Lactic and uric acid, both bi-products of energy production in the cells (metabolism), can concentrate within these compromised areas and both, along with calcium, are capable of crystallizing. The result is accumulations of acidic crystalline toxins within the myo-fascial structures of the body which contribute to dysfunction and increased levels of pain. When these acidic crystals penetrate the joint capsule the condition is called gout, when they remain outside the joint the condition is sometimes referred to as pseudo-gout.
It is probably these acidic deposits that the Gua Sha instrument pushes out of the tissue and its probably the sharp edges of the crystals rupturing microscopic capillaries that causes the ecchymosis and sub-cutaneous blemishing that characterize a Gua Sha treatment.
As well the constricted tissue, which has hindered the lymphatic system in its removal of the metabolic wastes, is also capable of trapping the sub-cutaneous superficial nerves. These nerves, tethered in the tissue, are unable to stretch as they need to as the body moves. Their self-protective response is to begin to lock down the surrounding muscles to restrict movement as much as possible with obvious consequences in terms of function and subsequent pain.
A possible explanation for the efficacy of Gua Sha as a treatment would involve the following;
the sharp edges of the metabolic crystals rupture microscopic capillaries prompting the body into a healing response. In effect a minor inflammation has been induced to provoke the body to deal with a larger problem. This may well be the primary reason as to why Gua Sha is so effective as a treatment.
there is a certain amount of liquification of crystallized metabolic wastes – once liquefied these are more easily removed by the waste disposal systems.
superficial nerves are freed from their restrictions by the friction-stroking of the Gua Sha instrument and by the removal of the metabolic wastes from the tissue allowing the nerves to lengthen and to release their own restrictions on surrounding muscles.
Gua Sha Treatment
I usually combine a Gua Sha treatment with myo-fascial therapy.
These sessions can be 60mins ($90) or 75-80mins ($120) in length.
A Gua Sha session by itself takes about 40mins ($60).