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Getting to grips with Gua Sha…..

Manual therapy has always been a core element of physiotherapy training and treatment. Whether it be massage, manipulation, soft tissue mobilisation or trigger point release, they all form a key part of any physiotherapist’s toolkit. The main aim of treatment is to improve mobility, loosen tension, relax tight muscles, and improve function. Manual therapy can also improve blood flow to the area and reduce swelling.

A more recent trend is to target the fascia, a collagen based connective tissue that encases muscle tissue and organs, providing a weblike structure throughout the body. Fascia provides stability, flexibility and protection. Tightness in the fascia can cause pain, restriction and poor biomechanics. There has been a recent rise in fascial release techniques, the most common being myofascial release, where both the muscle and fascia are treated.

However newer techniques have caught our eye, namely Fascial Abrasion Technique (FAT) and the Graston Technique (GT). Handheld tools such as the FAT tool and FasciaBlaster are used, these are often crescent shaped implements, metal, plastic roughened or bobbled. These are used to scrape the surface of the skin resulting in a reddening or erythema, causing  dilatation of the superficial blood capillaries. As deeper strokes and further pressure is applied a rash like appearance is created where the skin appears blemished ( Ecchymosis) caused from bleeding from the peripheral capillaries. The rational behind this is to loosen the underlying fascia.

These treatments, although a modern trend, are based on the a treatment founded thousands of years ago, part of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Gua Sha. Gua Sha’s literal meaning is gua “to scrape” sha- referring to reddening/bruises”, but is also referred to as ‘coining, spooning or scraping’. Traditionally, ceramic spoons, combs, coins and even animal horns were used as instruments. Massage oils can be used to provide lubrication and then deep strokes are made along the muscle fibres, which is why it is sometimes referred to as“tribo-effleurage”, friction-stroking. In Traditional Chinese Medicine Gua Sha can be used in conjunction with acupuncture points or meridians and used alongside cupping.

Here at Great Northern Physiotherapy we offer a selection of manual therapy services including Gua Sha and Myofascial Cupping as well as Acupuncture to help a variety of musculoskeletal disorders, acute or chronic. Our detailed physiotherapy assessments determine what treatment is most appropriate for each individual to aid recovery and rehabilitation.