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Gua Sha -- Scraping for a Cure

Gua Sha -- Scraping for a Cure

The release of the movie, "Gua Sha/The Treatment" unveiled a Chinese medical practice that astounded many westerners. The little boy in the movie was left with sever bruises on his back after a "Gua Sha" session. Those who are ignorant of the traditional Chinese medicine practice would be excused for dismissing the cure as "abuse" or "witch craft." However in Chinese medicine, Gua Sha is an effective method of curing a number of diseases. So the big question is—does the Gua Sha Treatment really work?

Is Gua Sha Scientific?

Gua Sha therapy is closely related to the theory of meridians, one of the most important Chinese medical theories. The theory of meridians provides not only the theoretical foundation for diagnosis, but also guides treatments such as acupuncture, massage, Qigong and Gua Sha.

The meridians (jing) and collaterals (luo) are pathways in which Qi and blood circulate. They form a specific network that communicates with the internal organs and limbs and connects the upper to the lower and the exterior to the interior portions of the body. In the ancient Chinese medical book The Yellow Emperor's Canon of Internal Medicine it recorded the six meridians (liu jing), namely, the Taiyang, Yangming, Shaoyang, Taiyin, Shaoyin, and Jueyin meridians. Zhang Zhongjing (150—219 A.D.), famous physician of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25—220A.D.) wrote the book Treatise on Cold Diseases and Miscellaneous Disorders which also gave brief and accurate descriptions of symptoms for diseases of each meridian. Furthermore, it was his rich clinical experience that helped bring about this medical theory. The principle of Gua sha is similar to that of acupuncture in which different points in the patient's body are stimulated.

According to Chinese medicine, when external coldness or negative energy invades the body a disease develops. Thus people will have some physical discomfort such as dizziness, vomiting and pain. Gua sha can stimulate blood flow and remove coldness, negative energy, toxic-heat and lymphatic fluid from the body through the skin. Through the process, more blood serum is produced, thus improving the body's immune system.

However, western medicine and Chinese medicine have contrasting views on the origin of diseases, hence leading to different treatments. Western medicine emphasizes exterior factors like viruses and microbes that lead to disease where as Chinese medicine places more emphasis on the internal human body. In other words, if the body is strong and healthy the organs will naturally protect themselves from diseases. Chinese physicians have tried to find treatments to improve the function of the six meridians. Western physicians, quite differently, tried to make effective for eliminating bacteria in the body. Chinese medicine physiology is based on the activity of Qi throughout the body, while Western medicine physiology is based on anatomy. Both medical practices can exist side by side.

What is Gua Sha?

"Sha" refers to the sudden attack of illness such as sunstroke and dry cholera during the summer and autumn seasons. It also refers to rashes. The term "Gua" means, "to scrape." Before the actual Gua Sha treatment begins, liquid medicine is rubbed on the painful area or acupoints to stimulate blood circulation in the body. The therapist then scrapes the skin with a jade or horn blade from top to bottom according to the direction of blood flow. Some blood capillaries break and release the red blood cell, hemoglobin. Such stimulation can promote blood circulation and remove obstruction in the collateral and toxins from the body, which then relieves pain. Though red, purple or black bruises appear after the scraping, during the treatment, the patient rarely feels any pain.

What does Gua Sha Treat?

Gua Sha can provide drug-free relief from back, neck, leg and shoulder pain. It is widely used to cure measles, a disease most commonly contracted in the summer and autumn seasons. It can also relieve some women's problems such as period pain, lack of periods, insufficient lactation, and climacteric syndrome. Gua Sha, like acupuncture, massage and Qi Gong is also a magical method of improving health.

(Source: Women of China English Monthly)