What is gua sha?
Gua sha is commonly known to be a traditional eastern medicine technique where a blunt tool, such as a ceramic soup spoon, is used to scrape the skin to improve blood circulation and oxygen supply to the soft tissue. A modern take on this technique is often referred to as instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilisation (IASTM).
What happens during tissue injury?
Inflammation usually occurs following an injury to generate new cells. The formation of scar tissue reduces elasticity of the injured tissue and results in adhesion. The scar tissue may also limit oxygen and nutrient supply and thus affect tissue regeneration. If left untreated, chronic inflammation may lead to tissue degeneration and contribute to chronic pain. These areas may also be more susceptible to re-injury.
How does gua sha work for injured tissue?
Adequate pressure and shear force applied during soft tissue mobilisation create micro-trauma in the affected area. This can facilitate the inflammatory response during the healing phase of the tissue. By using an instrument to assist, the clinician is able to deliver a greater force and stimulate adhesive points deeper within the tissue. Removing scar tissue and releasing adhesions help collagen synthesis and realignment. These in turn improve soft tissue function, range of motion, decrease pain and speed up healing.
Do I need gua sha?
Gua sha can be beneficial for conditions including but not limited to:
- Tennis elbow
- Patella tendon injury
- Hamstring tendinopathy
- Achilles tendinopathy
- Partial muscle tears
- Plantar fasciitis
- Chronic neck pain
- Chronic low back pain
What should I expect when receiving gua sha?
The clinician will typically start by rubbing lubricant such as cream to the skin before applying the instrument at a tolerable pressure onto the affected area. The clinician will perform smooth firm strokes over the affected area while feeling for restrictions or soft tissue irregularities. This process may take about 5-15 minutes depending on the affected area and condition.
In physiotherapy, gua sha may be used in conjunction with stretching and strengthening exercises depending on the type of injury and the stage of recovery. These exercises help restoration of function and prevent re-injury.
Are there any side effects with gua sha ?
Gua sha should not be painful during treatment. The rubbing and scraping may cause small blood capillaries near the surface of the skin to burst and result in redness, light bruising or soreness. These symptoms should resolve in a few days and can be managed with ice if necessary.
If you have any questions regarding whether gua sha can help, please give us a call at (02) 8411 2050. At Thornleigh Performance Physiotherapy, we can give you an accurate diagnosis and treatment, to help you get back in action as soon as possible. We are conveniently located near Beecroft, Cherrybrook, Hornsby, Normanhurst, Pennant Hills, Waitara, Wahroonga, Westleigh, West Pennant Hills, and West Pymble.
- Kim J, Sung DJ, Lee J. Therapeutic effectiveness of instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization for soft tissue injury: mechanisms and practical application. J Exerc Rehabil. 2017;13(1):12-22.
- Lambert M, Hitchcock R, Lavallee K, et al. The effects of instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization compared to other interventions on pain and function: a systematic review. Physical Therapy Reviews. 2017;22(1-2):76-85.