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Gua Sha

 

 

 

Gua Sha

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Gua Sha (Chinese: 刮痧; pinyin: guā shā), literally "to scrape away fever" in Chinese (more loosely, "to scrape away disease by allowing the disease to escape as sandy-looking objects through the skin"), is an ancient medical treatment.

Sometimes referred to as "spooning" or "coining" by English speakers, it has also been given the descriptive French name, "tribo-effleurage".[1]

The Vietnamese term for this practice is cạo gió (pronounced "cow yaw"), meaning roughly to "scrape wind", as in Vietnamese culture "catching a cold" or fever is often referred to as trúng gió, "to catch wind". The origin of this term is the Shang Han Lun, a ~220 CE Chinese Medical text on cold induced disease - like most Asian countries China's medical sciences were a profound influence in Vietnam, especially between the 5th and 7th Centuries CE[2]. Cạo gió is an extremely common remedy in Vietnam and for overseas Vietnamese. There are many variants of Cạo gió. Some methods use oil balm and a coin to apply pressure to the skin. Others use a boiled egg with a coin inserted in the middle of the yolk. The egg is wrapped in a piece of cloth and rubbed over the forehead (in the case of a fever) and other areas of skin. After the rubbing, when the coin is removed from the egg, it will appear black.

It is also used in Indonesia. It is a traditional Javanese technique, known as kerikan (lit., "scraping technique") or kerokan, and it is very widely used, as a form of "folk" medicine, upon members of individual households.
[edit] "Folk" technique

In describing the Gua Sha techniques as a form of "folk" medicine, the term "folk" is not being used in any pejorative sense. It is used to emphasize:

    the extremely widespread domestic use of the technique (thus, used by the "folk") as a method of first-contact intervention,
    that complex medical diagnosis is not required (and, thus, any decision to use or not use Gua Sha can be reliably made by the "folk"), and
    the overall safety of the technique (meaning that it is safe for the "folk" to use)[citation needed].

Notwithstanding, the Gua Sha technique is just as important a part of the legitimate practice of the specialist practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine as is the use of fire cupping; among professional practitioners it is a highly reputable technique that is applied just as it is applied by the "folk" users.
[edit] Technique

Gua Sha involves repeated pressured strokes over lubricated skin with a smooth edge. Commonly a ceramic Chinese soup spoon was used, or a well worn coin, even honed animal bones, water buffalo horn, or jade. A simple metal cap with a rounded edge is commonly used.

In cases of fatigue from heavy work a piece of ginger root soaked in rice wine is sometimes used to rub down the spine from head to tail.

The smooth edge 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, along the surface of the

 skin, with each stroke being about 4-6 inches long.

This causes extravasation of blood from the peripheral capillaries (petechiae) and may result in sub-cutaneous blemishing (ecchymosis), which usually takes 2-4 days to fade. Sha rash does not represent capillary rupture as in 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 blood stasis -- which may correlate with the nature, severity and type of their disorder --appearing from a dark blue-black to a light pink, but is most often a shade of red. Although the marks on the skin look painful, they are not. Patients typically feel immediate sense of relief and change[citation needed].

Practitioners tend to follow the tradition they were taught to obtain sha: typically using either gua sha or fire cupping. The techniques are not used together.[3]
[edit] Indications

In classical Chinese practice, the Gua Sha technique is most commonly used to:

    Reduce fever (the technique was used to treat cholera).
    Treat fatigue caused by exposure to heat (often used to treat heat-stroke) or cold.
    Cough and dyspnea: bronchitis, asthma, emphysema.
    Treat muscle and tendon injuries.
    Push sluggish circulation, fibromyalgia.
    Treat headache.
    Treat sunstrokes / heat syncope and nausea.
    Treat stiffness, pain, immobility.
    Treat digestive disorders.
    Treat urinary, gynecological disorders.
    To assist with reactions to food poisoning.[4]


There is an allied technique, Ba Sha (Chinese: 拔痧; pinyin: bá shā, literally "to pull out fever"), or 'tsien sha', which has a similar application to Gua Sha. It is performed by gripping the skin, lifting and then flicking between the fingers until petechiae appear. It is used more often on the tendons, at the center of the brow, or than over specific acupuncture points.
[edit] Cross-cultural confusion with physical abuse

A slightly different form of Gua Sha uses the edges of coins rather than porcelain items is practiced as a "folk medicine" technique. Individuals practice this "coining" amongst their own family members in many Asian cultures such as Vietnam (where the coin scraping, or "coining" is known as "cạo gió", 'scraping for wind'), in Cambodia, and in their respective immigrant communities abroad. For example, health care practicioners in hospitals Orange County, CA routinely see evidence of coining among hospitalized Vietnamese patients.

In 1980, it was found that many Vietnamese still distrusted US medical practitioners in part due to fear of being falsely accused of child abuse.

For professionals in this position, it is helpful to be familiar with the appearance of Gua Sha marks and to understand its traditional therapeutic value, and to be able to make the distinction between gua sha marks and signs of abuse. Nonetheless, if the practice results in physical injury to children or the elderly, physicians in the United States are required to make a report to the appropriate family social service agency; the intent to injure (or lack thereof) has no bearing on this requirement. [5]

Gua Sha is not known to be harmful. The technique called cupping also leaves distinctive, petechial marks on the skin, but is also harmless.

In 2001, a movie called "Gua Sha" (see The Treatment) was made addressing this practice and the cultural misunderstandings it causes. The movie stars Tony Leung

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