ADVERTISING: Advertorial — DR. WENDY CUNNINGHAM: What is Gua Sha?

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Gua sha is a natural, alternative therapy that involves the light scraping of the skin with a rounded tool to improve pain, circulation and range of motion. This ancient Chinese healing technique offers a unique approach to better health, addressing a wide array of pain.

Gua Sha (an ancient form of Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization) consists of lightly scraping the skin in one direction with short or long strokes to stimulate microcirculation of the soft tissue, which increases blood flow. These strokes are made on oiled skin with a smooth-edged instrument made from materials such as stainless steel, wood, ceramics, antler or horn, plastic or jade.

Sha can be translated as “sand” or “red, raised, millet-size rash.” The technical term is petechiae and ecchymosis, and you can visualize red dots or a reddish tinge to the skin. This is not the same thing as a bruise, in which a blood vessel is broken. Raising the sha is the goal of the technique and part of the diagnostic process. By evaluating the color, area and intensity of the sha, it helps to confirm your diagnosis and prognosis. The sha will fade quickly, within one to three days.

So, how does it work? Connective tissue supports and connects the human body. Fascia is a type of connective tissue that connects the skin to deep layers of muscle and to all other tissues. When using gua sha to intentionally stroke the skin in one direction, you activate the most superficial level of fascia, which in turn activates both deep layers of fascia and organs far from the site of the stroking. This releases deep muscle tension, increases microcirculation and causes vasodilation, all associated with pain reduction. Clinical research has demonstrated that gua sha immediately reduces pain near the site of application and far from the site of application, making it a useful treatment method for any type of pain in the body.

It is generally performed on a person’s back, neck, arms or legs. It can assist in achieving optimal movement and range of motion. Gua sha is intended to address stagnant energy, called chi, in the body that may be responsible for inflammation. Inflammation is the underlying cause of many conditions associated with pain, so gua sha is often used to treat ailments such as arthritis and fibromyalgia, as well as those that trigger muscle and joint pain.

As a natural healing remedy, gua sha is safe. It should not be painful and it can be used on a wide range of patients, including kids. This technique may appear straightforward and simple, but it should only be performed by a licensed acupuncturist or practitioner of Chinese medicine.

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For more information, contact Dr. Wendy Cunningham, DC, CAc, at haydenhealth@gmail.com.

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