When people begin their acupuncture treatment, they are most often surprised to find out that acupuncture is so much more than just needles. Within Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are several different modalities that can be used in addition to the acupuncture needles. The adjunctive therapies that we use at the Acupuncture Center of New Jersey include Gua Sha, cupping, moxibustion, Tui Na, and electrical stimulation. Watch this video to see it in action! [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zimi6YbWJ98]
Today we are going to focus on Gua Sha, pronounced "Gwa Sha," which is an ancient healing technique that helps to break up scar tissue, adhesions, and blood stasis in the muscles, fascia, and acupuncture meridians. Gua Sha can be loosely translated to "scraping sand" or "scraping away illness through the skin." Your acupuncturist will use a tool that looks like a soup spoon or a piece of jade, and lightly scrape different areas of skin where there are blockages in the flow of qi and blood. This scraping technique will bring up little red dots, or "Sha", to the surface of the skin by breaking up blood stasis in the affected area. This process also helps to bring toxins to the peripheral circulation so the body can more easily eliminate them. The color of the "Sha" that is brought to the skin surface can range from light red to dark purple, depending on the severity and duration of blood stasis, and will look much worse than it feels! Having Gua Sha performed by a trained acupuncturist feels like a deep tissue massage, and some areas can feel very tender, but not painful. After your treatment, it is important to drink water to help your body eliminate toxins, keep the treated area covered, and not expose it to cold, wind, or water. The "Sha" that appeared will fade over a couple of days.
Gua Sha is most often used for acute and chronic musculoskeletal pain and muscle tension, but it can also be used to effectively treat the common cold, flu,respiratory disorders such as asthma and bronchitis, and emotional conditions, such as anxiety and stress. At the acupuncture center of New Jersey, I use Gua Sha frequently to treat neck and shoulder pain, respiratory conditions, stress, and anxiety. I have found that in addition to motor point needling, the Gua Sha very effectively breaks up adhesions and scar tissue, and helps restore proper range of motion, especially for shoulder conditions. Gua Sha on the upper trapezius muscle also helps to relieve tension that is often due to everyday stress. When doing Gua Sha on the upper back, you can tell which acupuncture meridians are affected by blood stasis because these acupuncture points will have darker Sha that appears. I have seen great success in using Gua Sha in addition to acupuncture to clear stagnation in the heart and pericardium meridians, which often manifests as anxiety and insomnia. If you are interested in learning if Gua Sha is an appropriate treatment for you, ask your acupuncturist at your next treatment at the ACNJ.
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