Gua sha is an ancient medical treatment which translates literally as “to scrape away fever” in Chinese, or more loosely, “to scrape away disease by enabling the pathogen to escape through the skin”. Sometimes referred to as “spooning” or “coining”, it has also been given the descriptive French name, “tribo-effleurage”. Gua Sha is often performed at home with a Chinese ceramic soup spoon, or a well worn coin, or more classically honed animal bones, water buffalo horn, or even jade.
Graston techniques are a modern medical descendant of Gua Sha. The smooth edge of a stainless steel tool is placed against the pre- oiled skin surface, pressed down firmly, and then moved down the muscles hence the term “tribo- effleurage” (i.e., friction-stroking) — or along the pathway of the acupuncture meridians (fascial trains) along the surface of the skin, with each stroke being about 4-6 inches long.
This “scraping” causes extravasation of blood from the peripheral capillaries (petechiae/ redness) and may result in sub-cutaneous blemishing (ecchymosis), which usually takes 2-4 days to fade. “Sha” rash does not represent capillary rupture (bruising), as is evidenced by the immediate fading of petechiae to echymosis, and the rapid resolution of sha as compared to bruising. The color of “sha” varies according to the severity of the patient’s condition and correlates with the nature and type of their disorder appearing from a dark blue-black to a light pink. (most often a shade of red) Although the marks on the skin look painful, there is often minimal discomfort after treatment. Additionally, patients receiving Gua Sha typically feel an immediate sense of relief and change.