At TotalMSK Gua Sha or IASTM is typically used to treat:-
- Acute and Chronic inflammatory conditions.
- Sports and overuse injuries.
- Work related injuries.
- Musculoskeletal / MSK conditions affecting fascia, muscles, tendons or ligaments.
- Fibrotic tissues, including scar tissue.
Gua Sha is a Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) technique which dates back over 2000 years and translates as 'scraping sha-bruises' and is sometimes referred to as spooning, coining or scraping. There is evidence of similar techniques being used in ancient Roman times by gladiators who needed to stay in peak fighting condition. The technique is applied using specifically shaped tools. Traditionally, different materials such as stone, horn, ceramics or metal are used to produce tools. Practitioners apply a lubricant to the area being treated and then apply repeated unidirectional strokes to the tissues, usually working along acupuncture meridian lines. These repeated strokes produce what is known as 'sha'. In ancient Chinese medicine 'sha' is believed to be the release of unhealthy elements from within the injured tissues and promotes blood flow and healing. Although the 'sha' appears to be 'bruising', it looks very different in practice and creates transitory therapeutic petechia. The 'petechia' looks like tiny droplets of blood below the surface of the skin. The 'sha' resembles a "love bite" or "hickey", though tends not to be painful.
Image showing 'Sha' after application of treatment
Traditional Chinese Medicine considered blood stagnation as pathogenic. Hence, raising the 'sha' was thought to be an essential aspect of maintaining health. Traditionally, practitioners have treated a wide variety of ailments, including; pain, headaches, stiffness, nausea, vomiting, wheezing, coughs, colds, chills and fevers. Recent studies have shown that the technique appears to stimulate the immune system to some extent. Other studies have shown that similar tool based myofascial techniques can increase collagen production within treated tissues.
Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilisation (IASTM)
In many respects, IASTM is a modern take on the ancient technique of Gua Sha, and there are various adaptions, tools and protocols. Some of these styles of treatment have been patented or trademarked, such as Graston Technique ®. Unlike, Gua Sha most IASTM techniques are not purely applied along meridian lines, though often along the kinetic chain. IASTM techniques are aimed primarily at treating Musculoskeletal / MSK related ailments, rather than fevers, colds etc. IASTM practitioners also use specially shaped tools, made from surgical grade stainless steel, plastic or other materials. The practitioner then uses the instrument with a lubricant to target the affected treatment area. The tool is then used to apply a form of deep tissue friction massage to the treatment area. Variations of technique involve utilising the method to work structures in weight bearing and non-weight bearing positions and passively or actively. In Gua Sha, practitioners are looking to produce the appearance of 'sha', whereas 'sha' may or may not appear during such treatment. However, sometimes treatment can create some bruising especially when treating acute or chronic tissues. The therapy technique is commonly used to treat soft tissues, such as muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia and tissues which are exhibiting chronic inflammation, degenerative changes or fibrosis. Such techniques have gained popularity along with cupping, after people seeing such techniques in use at the Olympics.
Image showing application of IASTM
Terry, the founder of TotalMSK, is currently the only practitioner in the organisation qualified in the use of Gua Sha and IASTM techniques. He became interested in the methods after sustaining a previously misdiagnosed injury. The injury was impacting his ability to run, leaving him with two stark choices, quit running or undergo invasive medical procedures. In the end, Terry treated himself using a combination of his anatomy and advanced soft tissue knowledge. He is still distance running ten years post initial injury and without issues. He based his treatment on aspects of advanced Remedial massage and Sports Massage deep friction techniques. Modern Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilisation (IASTM) has a lineage from Gua Sha and Advanced Remedial Massage Techniques. Hence, Terry was interested in learning the original ancient Chinese technique of Gua Sha. He had already trained extensively in Sports Massage Therapy and Advanced Remedial Massage Techniques. Terry has successfully treated elite level athletes with acute sports injuries with Gua Sha / IASTM Techniques. He has also successfully managed post-operative scar tissue, both old and relatively new, under medical guidance. Both Gua Sha and IASTM are also forms of Myofascial Release (MFR) Techniques, though to differing degrees.
Massage and Myotherapy Registrations
Terry brings over 15 years of experience working in the MSK field back to Australia from the UK. He also has training in a wide array of techniques and currently works as a Myotherapist. His main areas of interest relate to trauma and myofascial pain relief. He has also taught as a senior course coach on one of the first myotherapy courses in Brisbane.