Gua Sha - Translates as "Pushing Sand"
Gua Sha is a therapeutic Chinese medical treatment traditionally applied by scraping skin with an ox horn implement; my favoured tool is the ceramic Chinese soup spoon. It translates as Pushing Sand due to the roughness of the resulting reaction...as though there is sand beneath the skin.
Chinese medical philosophy holds that wind attacking the body externally blocks heat, preventing it's escape from musculature making it hard, tight and painful. The condition is most commonly observed in the upper body about neck & shoulders as heat rises in the body and this area is most frequently exposed directly to the elements. Also too, this condition can be generated by dietary and emotional affects on internal health or chronic postural strain from condition like mild scoliosis.
For the tightness and rigidity with a grisle like quality I encounter through the back, neck and shoulders of my clients caused by this condition, treatment can take three avenues...Fasting and liver detoxification will typically clear the condition in several months; TCM herbal and acupuncture treatment will do the same in a few weeks; and, Gua Sha will do so instantly. Tightness and stabbing pains are alleviated immediately. While the Gua Sha treatment will have a mild affect on underlying metabolism, it is primarily a topical treatment directly targeting the area of tightness and pain.
This tightness is not readily responsive to massage, stretching or trigger point therapy until the heat is removed. Heat rises to the surface appearing as a rough red rash called the "Sha"; the heat is clearly felt by the patient on the skin's surface. In severe cases only 2 or 3 scapes are sufficient to raise the Sha. More commonly a dozen are necessary. Where there is no heat trapped, no amount of scraping will raise Sha and no benefit results.
Unlike Cupping where marks can take several weeks to clear, the Sha will clear in three days. As the pores are opened, special care should be taken to protect treated areas from exposure to cold, damp or wind until the next day.
I might encounter a client needing this not much more than once or twice a week. Pictured below a more common Gua Sha outcome specifically targeting the problem area rather than applying it across the entire back...crick in the neck gone. If the musculature does not have trapped heat there is little to be gained by using Gua Sha.