Gua Sha

Gua Sha is a traditional healing technique in East Asian medicine. It is used widely in Vietnamese, Indian and Indonesian cultures as well as in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The name Gua Sha is taken from the classical text, The Shang Han Lun, 220 CE and translates to “scraping – bruises”.

In a typical Gua Sha treatment the surface of the body is pressed and stroked with a smooth edged instrument, like a spoon, coin, or egg, to raise therapeutic petechiae. Petechiae, or bruising, appears as small red or purple spots on the skin which is a result of minor bleeding due to broken capillary blood vessels.

Practitioners use Gua Sha to release stagnation, pain and heat that is trapped in the body. By scraping the muscle or meridian, blood flow increases and toxins and heat are released. The amount of bruising or sha present after a treatment clues the practitioner in to how much stagnation is released.

I utilize gua sha therapy in the clinic to reduce pain, increase well-being and reduce stress. At home I use gua sha on my children if they have a fever or are tense in their shoulders (they are always doing gymnastics and jiu jitsu).

Even this past week I had the opportunity to use gua sha to treat my 9 year-old who was suffering from a headache and 104 degree fever. I typically try to avoid NSAIDS and let their fevers run their course.

My treatment included starting with a warm bath and then slowly added cooler water so the temperature dropped slowly as not to give her the shivers. I avoided wetting the hair. After she was dry and clothed I laid her down on the living room floor and had her pull up her shirt to expose her back and neck.

I applied some light oil – I like to use aromatic oils to reduce fevers – like something with a hint of mint or eucalyptus – to her upper back.

Occasionally I use castor oil too which, has immune boosting properties. I then took the lid off of a jelly jar and began doing Gua Sha to her upper back. I held the lid in my right hand and applied short and quick strokes along her upper back.

I spent a lot of time at the area right at the base of her spine scraping the cutaneous skin. In Traditional Chinese medicine the spot below C-7 called Daizhu or DU 14, because of its fever reducing property.

Because she is young I kept the pressure very light and avoided getting a lot of sha or bruising. I spent about 10-minutes on her back and then covered her quickly with a towel and then had her get dressed immediately to avoid catching chill.

Her temperature lowered significantly and her pain was markedly reduced. Her color returned to her face. She reported feeling really calm and relaxed and asked me to do it again!

We continued this treatment 2 x over the next two days until she was back doing cartwheels instead of walking.

NY Times Article on Arnica-Moms best friend

The Alternative Medicine Cabinet: Arnica for Pain Relief

By Anahad O’Connor

Tony Cenicola/The New York Times What alternative remedies belong in your home medicine cabinet?

More than a third of American adults use some form of complementary or alternative medicine, according to a recent government report. Natural remedies have an obvious appeal, but how do you know which ones to choose and whether the claims are backed by science? Today, New York Times “Really?” columnist Anahad O’Connor begins a weekly series exploring the claims and the science behind alternative remedies that you may want to consider for your family medicine cabinet.

The Remedy: Arnica

The Claim: It relieves pain.

The Science: Arnica Montana, a plant native to mountainous areas of Europe and North America, has been used for centuries to treat a variety of pain. Athletes rub it on muscles to soothe soreness and strains, and arthritis sufferers rub it on joints to reduce pain and swelling. It’s believed that the plant contains derivatives of thymol, which seems to have anti-inflammatory effects.

Either way, scientists have found good evidence that it works. One randomized study published in 2007 looked at 204 people with osteoarthritis in their hands and found that an arnica gel preparation worked just as well as daily ibuprofen, and with minimal side effects. Another study of 79 people with arthritis of the knee found that when patients used arnica gel twice daily for three to six weeks, they experienced significant reductions in pain and stiffness and had improved function. Only one person experienced an allergic reaction.

The Risks: Arnica gels or creams can cause allergic reactions in some people, but it is generally safe when used topically. However, it should never be rubbed on broken or damaged skin, and it should only be ingested when in a heavily diluted, homeopathic form.