What is Gua Sha and History

| December 21, 2011 | 0 Comments | 3,094 views

Gua Sha is an ancient therapy associated with the extraordinary therapies of acupuncture. Sha means a disease caused by attack of climatic pathogenic factors to the meridians, causing blocks and creating pain, coldness, stiffness or numbness of limbs and even fever or vomiting and diarrhoea.
When the climatic factors attack the body for a period of time, they can also move to the interior, and affect the interior of the body in similar ways.
I am sure the reader would have observed that on the exposed areas of the body the skin ages much more than the covered areas. So it is evident that the climatic elements take their toll out on the skin and its associated tissues. The connective tissue forms an inner cover between the skin and the muscle, giving it protection and also firmness.

The connective tissue
This is called the fascial connective tissue. According to Arya Nielsen (1995)2:

The top layer of the superficial fascia is the fatty layer which acts as an insulator, helping to maintain a constant body temperature.Adipose tissue is metabolically active: it stores fat as fuel for metabolic function and releases it in response to nervous and hormonal stimuli. This corresponds to the Eastern concept of the greasy layer where the ancient Chinese Wei or Protective Qi circulates.
The deep layer of superficial fascia lies immediately over the deep fascia and is less dense than the deep fascia. Arteries,veins, nerves, lymph vessels and nodes run through this bottom layer of the superficial fascia rather than between the layers. These vessels become surrounded by the fascia they penetrate and are thereby connected and held in place.
Just below and adherent to the superficial fascia is the deep fascia. It covers most of the muscles, all the large blood vessels, all the large nerves, the deep lymphatics and nodes and certain glands.

On meeting any of these structures, the deep fascia splits into laminae,which surround the structures then reunite. A layer of this fascia can also split into many layers to enclose a space. There is not a cell or space that the connective tissue does not integrate.

The fibrils of connective tissue have a degree of crystallinity; the alternative compression and expansion of the crystalline lattice creates a piezoelectric effect. Voluntary muscular movement, even the continuous activity of cell motion, leads to the compression necessary for electrical field generation.

Oschman (1987)3 demonstrates that these fields expand through the tissues, producing signals that alert the cells. In response, the cells use this information to alter their actions of nourishing and maintaining the surrounding tissue.
Heat and movement keep the ground substance fluid, facilitating transit and conduction. Disuse and subsequent lack of warmth can cause the fluid ground substance to gel and the collagen fibrils to bunch and glue. This results in thickening and shortening of the connective tissue, which may even bond to its underlying tissue, creating adhesions. The end result is constriction of movement, slowing of metabolic processes and compromised immunity.

Movement and stretching breathe life into connective tissue. Pressure, friction, massage and acupuncture, as well as other tactile stimulation, create fascial events. Piezoelectric signals stimulate chemical changes which signal cells. Geling ground substance fluid warms, loosens and liquefies, which increases conductivity and metabolic transit. Static, excess fluid is astringed. Febril gluing and resulting adhesional constriction is discouraged. The immune function of connective tissue is quickened.
Arya Nielsen (1995)

The connective tissue is mainly nourished by Spleen Blood and is given continued firmness by Spleen Qi. To fully utilize the nutrition and fluid and to improve the Qi and firmness, the tactile stimulation of the connective tissue is obviously of the foremost importance. This is the reason that the Gua Sha technique is being used here.
Through the use of the Gua Sha technique, I have tried to liven up the connective tissue – especially on the areas of the face and neck which are ageing and badly wrinkled – to rejuvenate these areas so that the activity of nourishing and maintaining, of warming and making supple, of activating the fibroblasts will result in more ground substance and collagen production
(see Figure 5.20 ).

A sagging face lifted with needling produces good results. But the small wrinkles around the eyes, the mouth, on the neck and décolleté are so difficult to change. With the Gua Sha technique there is a marked improvement, especially in the long term. The disadvantages of this treatment are that
(a) there is some redness noticeable for a day or two after the treatment and
(b) it requires a longer time with the therapist at the patient’s side to administer the treatment.

The technique
Use some oil on the skin surface that you are about to treat. I use red oil (St John’s wort oil), which is suitable for almost all patients. If the patient has very thin and sensitive skin, they may react to this oil with some red wheals. It would be better to use ordinary baby oil on these patients. It is important that no cooling oils, such as oils with mint, aloe vera or tea tree oil, should be used with this treatment.

Fig 5.20 Gua Sha.

Fig 5.20 Gua Sha.

Wash and dry your hands (so they are not slippery), and using a small saucer or ceramic spoon or a special Gua Sha instrument, rub the skin softly and always in one direction, until a red skin reaction is obtained. 4 After this has been obtained, the skin and the red areas can be smoothed down and the redness made even by using special Gua Sha rollers.
The treatment is performed:
■ once a week for the first two times
■ once in 2 weeks a further two times
■ once a month, but only if necessary. The patient should avoid direct sunlight until the redness subsides, or
the skin could become hyperpigmented. The other point of difference is that, unlike Gua Sha for musculoskeletal problems, the strokes are always in the upwards and outwards direction, as shown in Figure 5.21.

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