Gua sha Treatment (刮痧) in Chengdu
Last weekend, our interns in Chengdu and DMU group went to Emei mountain which took them 14 hours to climb to the top of the peak After they came back, nearly everyone in DMU group went to a massage centre to have Gua Sha therapy or cupping therapy in order to relieve thier muscle pain.
Actually, gua sha is an ancient healing technique used by many clinics of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). For some western countries, gua sha is kind of unfamiliar and also unacceptable; Once, a news reported about a Spanish Asian mom was under an accusation of maltreating her son by using gua sha treatment. But actually his mom just tried to help her son to cure a cold. Pain, both acute and chronic, is the most common indication for gua sha. In the TCM tradition, pain is oftentimes caused by the stagnation of blood in the local area of discomfort. The guiding principle behind gua sha is that this technique has the ability to break up stagnation, to promote the smooth flow of blood in the area, therefore relieving pain.
While gua sha is most commonly used to treat pain, it can also be utilized by TCM clinicians to address conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, colds, flu, fever, heatstroke, fibromyalgia, strains, sprains, and muscle spasms.
I first experienced the gua sha treatment four years ago, which enables me know more about the venation structure of human body from the Eastern Medical world angle. The human body structure is similar to plant structure, which is composed of countless venation. Our bones is similar to a plant’s trunk, while branches or twigs of a plant represents our body’s main and collateral channels. When main and collateral channels circulation somewhere of our body is blocked, it needs to remove stasis. There are several theories that may explain why this ancient technique works: gua sha increases blood flow (microcirculation) in the soft tissue, potentially stimulates the body’s natural pain-relieving opioid systems, and it may block the pain response pathways so you feel pain relief.
Some view gua sha as folk medicine, but the scientific research community may beg to differ! Researchers from institutions like Harvard and Beth Israel Medical Center are demonstrating both efficacy as well as offering insight on why gua sha works. A study published in a 2011 edition of Pain Medicine demonstrated that gua sha decreased pain for chronic neck pain sufferers, noting that “neck pain severity after 1 week improved significantly better in the gua sha group compared with the control group (heat therapy).”
Researchers have used various techniques, including Doppler images, to show that micro circulation is indeed increased in the treated area, therefore decreasing both local and distal areas of pain. In the mice model, gua sha was shown to influence an enzyme (Heme Oxygenase-1) that has a protective antioxidative effect in the cells. An interesting case study showed gua sha decreases inflammatory markers of a patient with liver injury due to Hepatitis B, suggesting gua sha may even have a protective effect on the liver. As is the case for most healing modalities in Eastern Medicine, modern science has yet again validated the effectiveness of this ancient technique.
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