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. Gua Sha is applied using specifically shaped tools. Tools are traditionally made from different materials such as stone, horn, ceramics or metal. 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' is often referred to as 'bruising' it actually looks very different in practice and creates transitory therapeutic petechia. The 'petechia' looks like tiny droplets of blood below the surface of the skin. Traditional Chinese Medicine considered blood stagnation as pathogenic. Hence, raising the 'sha' was thought to an important aspect of maintaining health. Gua Sha has traditionally been used to a wide variety of ailments including; pain, headaches, stiffness, nausea, vomiting, wheezing, coughs, colds, chills and fevers. Recent studies have shown that Gua Sha appears to be able to stimulate the immune system. Other studies have shown the Gua Sha can also increase collagen production within the tissues treated.
Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilisation (IASTM)
In many respects, IASTM is a modern take on 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 specifically applied along meridian lines, though they are frequently used along the kinetic chain. IASTM techniques are aimed primarily at treating musculoskeletal related ailments, rather than fevers, colds etc. IASTM practitioners also use specially shaped tools, which can be made of surgical grade stainless steel, plastic or other materials. These tools are used with a lubricant to target affected tissue restrictions with a form of friction massage, which does not necessarily have to be applied purely in a unilateral direction. Variations of technique involve applying the technique to tissues in weight bearing and non weight bearing positions and with the tissues working passively or actively. In Gua Sha, practitioners are looking to produce the appearance of 'sha', whereas 'sha' may or may not appear with an IASTM treatment. However, sometimes IASTM treatment can produce some bruising especially when treating acute or chronic tissues. IASTM, is commonly used to treat soft tissues, such as muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia and tissues which are exhibiting chronic inflammation, degeneration or fibrosis. Terry typically uses Gua Sha or IASTM in conjunction with other soft tissue techniques, such as advanced remedial massage and McTimoney Chiropractic.
Terry typically uses Gua Sha & IASTM to treat:-
- Acute and Chronic inflammatory conditions.
- Sports and overuse injuries.
- Work related injuries.
- Musculoskeletal conditions affecting fascia, muscles, tendons or ligaments.
- Fibrotic tissues, including scar tissue.
- Migraines and headaches.