Last Modified on Jun 06, 2014
Similar to the other forms of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) including acupuncture and acupressure, scraping is a form of healing that uses pressure and circulation to eliminate infection and disease. The therapy has been used in China for over a thousand years and is traditionally called guasha. As the treatment functions to promote circulation, eliminate infection, and cleanse the bad blood, scraping can be used to treat a wide range of health conditions.
What is Scraping?
Scraping or guasha is literally a form of scraping away pain. The Chinese translation actually means, “to scrape away fever.” The practice is founded on the idea that many sicknesses are caused by issues on the exterior of the body that have an effect on the immune system. For example, a cold is a condition of the immune system that causes such symptoms as neck aches, headache, and runny nose. Likewise, muscle soreness and injury are caused by problems with blood flow.
This traditional medicinal practice utilizes a spoon or other guasha tool. The tool is repeatedly rubbed or scraped over the skin in the affected area. The process increases blood flow to the area and facilitates the release of the bad blood or infection. The practice causes red splotches or petechia, known traditionally as sha, to form on the skin, which is taken as a sign that the wastes in the tissue are being released.
Health Benefits of Guasha
As the process is designed to promote circulation and decrease pain, scraping is an effective treatment for a variety of conditions. The process facilitates twofold healing – increasing blood flow and encouraging the body to cleanse itself of toxins and dead blood cells.
As such, the treatment can facilitate relief from a range of both acute and chronic conditions. Headaches, fever, chills, cough, chest pain, nausea, and stiffness respond well to the therapy. Scraping also offers relief from fibromyalgia pain, emphysema, gynecological issues, muscle tension, and a variety of others.
One of the main functions of scraping is to detox the body – a process that heals and rejuvenates. As such, guasha can be used to relieve a wide range of health conditions and promote overall wellness.
06/27/2008: Katrina from Olympia, WA: "My first introduction of Gua Sha comes from what I'm reading here at Earth Clinic. I'm very interested. Thank you. Through additional Google searching, I found the following link. It's just further information on how it works, who should avoid it, how often to do it, and how. http://www.healthtraditions.com.au/uploads/Gua sha (Lantern 4-2).pdf. Earth Clinic, a million thanks for being here."
[YEA] 04/06/2008: Judith from South Amana, IA: "I have had a lot of experience using Gua Sha as a massage therapist and nurse, since first being introduced to it by a Naturopath over ten years ago. Since then, I've talked with many acupuncturists and healers who also use it. I was told that Gua Sha means 'red sands' because of the red, gritty tint the skin gets after treatment.
Its most common use is for treating muscle spasms - especially those nasty ones along the neck and between the shoulder blades that cause headaches. Gua Sha is simply the fastest and most effective way to release these kinds of spasms - and - you can treat yourself easily. The simplest method is to use regular vaseline - rub a layer on the painful area, then take the lid - which should be large and have a rounded edge - and scrape IN ONE DIRECTION (do not scrape back and forth), vigorously, using a bit of pressure (so it is slightly uncomfortable). You should soon see reddish-purple dots forming on the skin. This is called 'sup' and contains many toxins including lactic acid. It is the breakup of this lactic acid that will release the muscle spasm, almost instantaneously. Keep rubbing until no more 'sup' surfaces. Be forewarned - it can look like a huge hickey and be quite shocking to see what looks like huge purple bruises on the skin. But it is actually painless, and most remarkably, the muscle spasm will be gone for good. The purple coloring will mostly be gone the next day.
I've also used various kinds of oils instead of vaseline, but they are not thick enough to prevent irritation of the skin. You want to prevent scraping on the skin itself - rather you are 'milking' the surface layer of the skin; milking out all the toxins in the muscle fibers and connective tissue. A thick layer of vaseline works well. If you can't find a nice rounded tin lid, a spoon will work if the edges are not sharp. Look for something that you can hold in your hand, has a smooth edge and it strong enough to withstand the pressure.
I have used this successfully on many cases of frozen shoulder and 'crick' necks - the results are almost miraculous. Acupuncturists use it as an alternative to cupping - it has a similar effect of raising the toxins to the surface to be released.
Asians use it frequently as home remedies for a variety of illnesses. The most common is to treat muscle aches from fevers. I was once involved in a child protective case (I was a public health nurse), where an immigrant Vietnamese family were being falsely accused of child abuse because the public school teacher found what looked like bruises all over the child's arms and legs. I testified on behalf of the family, educating the judge and jurors (and the teacher!) on the use of Gua sha in Asian culture.
Try it on simple muscle spasms first - just remember to scrape in one direction and provide plenty of lubrication on the skin. Over time, you will learn how much pressure and how long to scrape. Then try it for fevers and other problems. Its one of the greatest remedies around!"
[YEA] 02/05/2008: Daved from Venice, Calif: "Love the Gua Sha. I am a rock climber and I have severely strained my hands over the years. I would feel my pulse in my hands at night, every pulse painful. With no end to the pain, with other methods my chiropractor Brother in law said I needed a Gua Sha. I tried his and it kinda worked... I got my own on ebay and I got rid of all the stiffness and pain. I have also fixed my nerve damaged areas due to ski accident. Love the Gua Sha. Daved"
[YEA] 10/03/2007: Meg from Lome, Togo: "Hi again! "Scraping" is another remedy I discovered works amazingly well, but it can be used for many things. I am not sure I can explain it better than the page I first read about it so here is the link: (look for the section on "scraping") [http://www.planetherbs.com/articles/barefoot.html] I have used this myself to remove the pain from my feet at the end of each day of walking (I undertook a walking trip all the way from Cherbourg to Biarritz in France) and I have passed this tip along to others who have used it on sore and aching arms/backs/legs etc. with great success. I have not had any occasion to try it for the other purposes given on that source site, such as fevers or other illness, though."