Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sand Scrapping: Gua Sha

Whether you are professional athlete, part-time marathoner, want to be strongman, or just a weekend warrior you have undoubtedly experienced some form of muscle pain or trigger point.  While they are inconvenient and don't feel good they can be much more problematic than thought.  A muscle spasm or trigger point can result in d   the muscle fibers that results in ischemia due to the squeeze on capillaries.  As the contractions continue without adequate blood flow to its cells anaerobic glycolysis produces lactic acid which in turn brings a hydrogen ion with it and the "burning" sensation in your muscle occurs.
Gua Sha (gwa-sa) traditionally means "sand scrapping" and is a technique that involves applying an edged tool to the skin.  There are a variety of tools (see picture) to apply to different parts of the body.  During treatment "sha" become visible in the form as petechiae (red dots).  The presentation of petechiae is thought to show the increase of blood flow to the area and brings about the conclusion of the treatment.
Gua Sha is used to interrupt vasoconstriction by mechanical stimulation of mast cells resulting in the activation of the axon reflex flare.  This is achieved by stroking the tools over the skins surface to cause a mechanical stimulation that degranulates mast cells.  Histamine is released and stimulates nerves and through mediators the capillaries dilate resulting in erythema (skin redness).   Results of this stimulation and increase in blood flow are the normalization of blood pH, reduction of pain and a return to normal cellular production.
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This form of treatment is also useful in improving range of motion and strength by reducing and eliminating reciprocal inhibition.  Reciprocal inhibition occurs when an agonist muscle (think quad) is activated and the antagonist (think hamstring) relaxes.  This inhibition can occur with injury or a decrease in amount of use and the antagonist muscle can become shortened and weak.  Treatment on a weak muscle will not produce results but focus on the over-active s can produce returns in strength and range of motion for the antagonist muscle.
Gua sha should be performed primarily in the maturation phase of an injury, such as a hamstring strain, and not immediately after it has occurred. Strokes and pressure will depend on where the injury is located and the tolerance of the patient.  Following treatments pain-free stretches should be performed for the treated tissue.  The increase in circulation and tissue temperature is an effective combination when addressing deficits in flexibility.

Check for providers in your area or possibly buy your own set of tools, they range from $100-$5000.  A great complimentary treatment to your workouts and resulting soreness.

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