The Art and Science of Gua Sha
Continuing Education: Gua Sha Certification
In Chinese medicine, sha is stagnation or blockage that happens when the normal flow of qi and blood are obstructed. This can happen because of an invasion of pathogenic factors like wind, cold, heat, or dampness. This can also happen through trauma.
In western scientific terms, sha is called petechiae - discoloration as a result of red blood cells forced out of the capillaries into the surrounding subcutaneous tissues. Over time this discoloration will become less splotchy, merge and change color - appearing to fade like a bruise but painless because there is no trauma created by gua sha. The fading color is called ecchymosis.
Dr. Arya Nielsen, PhD and the Western World's foremost expert on gua sha has shown through basic scientific research some of the mechanism by which gua sha is able to reduce pain, support immune response and reduce inflammation. Studies measured increases in microperfusion (or localized circulation) after gua sha that lasted at least 25 minutes after the treatment. Just for comparison's sake, massage has also been shown to increase microperfusion slightly during the treatment but ends immediately after the massage has ended.
Also, studies show an increase in heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1), an enzyme known to be anti-oxidant and cytoprotective, at multiple internal organ sites immediately after treatment and over a period of days following gua sha treatment. This would explain the mechanism behind Gua Sha's ability to reduce fever, alter the course of acute infections and reduce inflammatory symptoms from chronic illness, as observed by traditional healers throughout Asia.
While the description of gua sha when written down sounds uncomfortable, most patients actually find it feels very good - almost like a special kind of massage. Talk to me to learn more about whether or not gua sha is right for you, if you are interested. And don't be surprised if I suggest it for you the next time I see you, if it is appropriate of course!
To learn more about gua sha, visit Dr. Arya Nielson's website www.GuaSha.com.
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