Gua Sha

Gua Sha, meaning "to scrape away disease" this southeast Asian technique has been practiced for centuries to alleviate fever, arthritis, many internal conditions, and the common cold, among other uses. 
In a session I will use oils and sometimes even vinegar before I scrape a tool over the skin until I raise petechiae. I will do this in a very specific pattern, diagonally from your spine out to your sides, in tracts down your torso. I can also do this in the hips and also the pectoral (chest) region. The session can be used in conjunction with many other massages, and is often combined with cupping and reflexology.

"In a lab in Germany, a team of researchers used laser Doppler imaging to assess changes in microcirculation, that is, surfacetissue perfusion, as a direct result of Gua sha (Nielsen, Knoblauch, and Dobos et al. 2007). Eleven healthy subjects were tested establishing nascent microcirculation levels, given Gua sha and then scanned again every 2.5 minutes for 25 minutes after treatment. Changes in perfusion were compared to nascent levels and to a control site in each subject that was not treated.

Gua sha resulted in a 400 % increase in surface perfusion for a full 7.5 minutes after treatment and a significant increase in perfusion for the full 25 minutes studied (Nielsen et al. 2007). Pain relief at the treatment site was maintained to a great extent at follow up scans 2 or 3 days later even though perfusion rates returned to baseline. Pain relief at control sites experienced immediately after Gua sha was not related to a change in surface perfusion as control sites saw no perfusion change.

What is interesting about this study is that increase in microcirculation rates were limited to the area treated but pain relief extended beyond the area treated and beyond the time of microcirculation change. While increase in perfusion represents a physiologic change associated with Gua sha, it is a partial knowledge; more study is needed into the therapeutic biomechanisms of Gua sha.

A literature search of the Chinese medicine journal database from 1984-2004 found 120 outcome studies on Gua sha published between 1998 and 2003 (Nielsen 2007) confirming the use of Gua sha as a therapy in clinics and hospitals in China. Twenty-five percent of the articles dealt with some kind of neck problem or coinciding neck and shoulder problem where the N of subjects ranged from 28 to 410 per study. Twelve studies were on frozen shoulder; seven for lumbar strain or pain and others for pain or immobility associated with sciatica, ankylosing spondylitis, arthralgia and osteoarthritis. Gua sha for pain not related to musculoskeletal problems is studied in the treatment of trigeminal neuralgia, postherpetic neuralgia, epigastric pain, headache, migraine, sinus and supraorbital pain, as well as dysmenorrhoea and renal colic." 

-eJournal : Nielsen, Arya, Chinese Medicine Times; "Gua Sha: A Clinical Overview"