Gua Sha - What You Need To Know
Updated: Mar 5
What Is Gua Sha and How Does It Work?
Gua Sha is performed by using a smooth jade stone with lotion or oil to perform a cross friction massage along areas of muscular tension or scarring/adhesions. It was developed by Traditional Chinese Medicine Doctors and is now performed by multiple types of practitioners including massage therapists and chiropractors.
Scar-tissue is typically formed after an injury to a joint. This process is your body’s way of splinting that joint in order to protect it from further injury while the joint is healing. Scar tissue is much weaker than healthy muscle, ligament and tendon. Therefore, if the joint is left to be supported mainly by this scar tissue, it is much more prone to re-injury. If addressed properly, the joint will be surrounded by scar tissue that allows full range of motion and allows your muscles to take over as the main protectors from abnormal joint motions.
A treatment with Gua Sha typically takes 10-15 minutes and is sometimes repeated multiple times, depending on the nature and severity of your injury. The jade stone is used to apply a kneading motion over the skin (using an oily lotion) in order promote your body’s natural healing process in regards to the scar tissue below. If you are being treated with Gua Sha, Dr. Campbell will typically give you exercises to do at home in order to fully rehabilitate the muscles surrounding that joint.
For example, if you sprain your ankle, scar tissue will begin to form around that joint. Gua Sha treatments will assist the natural healing process in that joint and the exercises will retrain the surrounding muscles to protect that joint from re-injury. It is important to continue to perform your exercises for as long as prescribed in order to ensure full range of motion in that joint.
Would I Benefit From Gua Sha?
A good rule of thumb: if you have sprained or strained a joint, if you have joint instability, or if you have a muscle that keeps forming the same trigger point even after it is released, you would likely benefit from Gua Sha.
Chronic ailments typically result from scar tissue not being addressed properly. Some common scar-tissue-related chronic ailments include:
- Myofascial trigger points: these are taut areas of muscle and tendon that create nodules of muscle that can be very painful. These are commonly referred to as “knots.” Massages will help to temporarily relieve this pain, but will not typically address the underlying cause (scar tissue).
- Frozen shoulder: shoulder instability commonly causes the body to splint that joint with scar tissue. The scar tissue can limit the range of motion in the shoulder joint to such a severe level that the person has hardly any ability to move their arm in the shoulder socket.
- Chronic ankle sprains: once the ankle is injured, it is much more likely to become injured again if the scar tissue is not addressed properly and the if the surrounding muscles are not fully strengthened and re-trained to respond to various lines of stress.
- Chronic pain in the arch of your foot. This could be due to your plantar fascia being too tight, or the muscles in the arch of your foot having trigger points or adhesions.
- Chronic tightness around a Cesarean Section scar.
If the injury happened a while ago and you are currently experiencing a scar-tissue-related chronic ailment, it is not too late to begin Gua Sha! The sooner you address the scar tissue, the sooner your joint will be as functional as possible again.
I hope you found this information helpful!
Author: Casey Campbell BSc., D.C.