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Gua Sha:
Gua Sha is an ancient therapeutic practice that began in China centuries ago. It remains a popular "folk" practice in China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Southeast Asia. Gua sha, literally means "to scrape for cholera", sometimes given the descriptive French name "tribo-effleurage" by English speakers, is a very ancient technique of treatment still in wide use today amongst practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Gua sha is used for pain associated with an acute or chronic disorder. The affected person may feel aching, tenderness and/or a knotted feeling in the muscles. When normal finger pressure on the person's skin causes blanching that is slow to fade, sha may be suspected. Gua sha is used to treat and prevent acute conditions such as common cold or flu, asthma, bronchitis as well as chronic problems involving pain and congestion of the qi and blood.

The technique
Gua sha involves firmly rubbing a person's skin with the smooth edge of a ceramic soup spoon (the edge of a plastic spoon is neither thick enough or smooth enough) or a fragment of the perimeter of a porcelain plate 'originally animal bones / horns were used' or, in the case of "folk" applications, the edge of a large coin may be used.

The spoon is placed against the pre-oiled skin surface, pressed down firmly, and then moved down the muscles -- hence the term "tribo-effleurage", friction-stroking -- or along the pathway of the acupuncture meridians, along the surface of the skin, with each stroke being about 10cm (4in) long.

This causes rupture of the small sub-dermal capillaries and may result in sub-cutaneous bruising, which may take quite a few days to fade entirely. The depth of colour varies according to the patient's internal reaction to treatment -- which is determined by the nature, severity and type of their disorder (generally speaking, the more severe the disorder, the stronger the reaction) -- and it may vary from a dark blue-black to a light pink. Although the marks on the skin look painful, they are not.

It is often used in conjunction with fire cupping. In such circumstances, the Gua Sha is always used before cupping, never after.

Indications
The technique is most commonly used to:

  • Reduce fever (the technique was first used to treat cholera).
  • Treat fatigue caused by exposure to heat (often used to treat heat-stroke).
  • Treat muscle and tendon injuries.
  • Push sluggish circulation.
  • Treat headache.
  • Treat stiffness.
  • Treat indigestion.
  • To assist with reactions to food poisoning.

    There is an allied technique, Ba sha, literally "to lift up for cholera", which has a similar application to Gua sha. It is performed by gripping the skin, lifting and then flicking between the fingers until a bruise comes up. It is used more often on the tendons than over specific acupuncture points.

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