Sometimes foam rolling, massages, and stretching just don't cut it when it comes to muscle recovery, that's where gua sha therapy comes into play. FightCamp Trainer Shanie Smash and our favorite physical therapist Guto Demeski explain what muscle scraping is, what its benefits are, and if this method is worth adding to your recovery routine.
What is Gua Sha Therapy?
A traditional Chinese medicine, Gua (meaning scrape) Sha (meaning petechiae - tiny red spots) is a type of muscle therapy that is more commonly known as muscle scraping. It is the art of using hand tools (which come in various shapes and sizes for different purposes to hit different areas and hard-to-reach places) to scrape over people's skin in different areas of muscle tension or tightness.
Benefits of Muscle Scraping
Improves blood circulation
Increases range of motion in the muscle
Relieves muscle pain or stiffness
Promotes metabolic cell repair
Stimulates muscle healing and recovery
Does Muscle Scraping Hurt?
The majority of the time muscle scraping should not hurt and would only do so if the practitioner is inexperienced or missed something. A qualified and reputable therapist will not hurt the individual receiving the treatment
What is Gua Sha Used for?
The main reason to implement muscle scraping from a recovery standpoint is actually to produce bodily inflammation. When muscle sites become inflamed, blood flow is amplified to the “injured site” stimulating the healing process and bringing nutrients to help aid in the recovery. This helps speed up recovery faster than the body's own response.
Does Muscle Scraping Leave Marks?
Yes, muscle scraping will leave marks. The Sha of Gua Sha means petechiae, or the small red spots, that appear on the skin are from hemorrhages of the capillaries. This is a natural response from the body and indicates that the inflamed muscled is healing. At times the muscle site can appear to be bruised. A highly trained professional will not do more harm than good.
What's Happening Inside the Muscle During Gua Sha?
Sometimes, through consistent working out and exercise, the muscles start to build up lactic acid. Muscle scraping improves blood circulation to the muscle sites helping to rid the body of unhealthy matter (such as lactic acid) caused by blood stasis from stiff, sore, and tired muscles.
When is the Right Time to Utilize Muscle Scraping?
The best time to do any type of recovery work, including muscle scraping, is post-workout. Another option would be to do recovery work on rest days as well.
What Does Muscle Scraping Feel Like?
The main thing that you may notice during a muscle scraping session is a feeling best described as “heat.” The worked-on muscle site is going to feel a lot warmer as blood is flowing to the worked-on muscle, starting the recovery process. Afterward, your muscles may seem a lot looser as well.
Muscle Scraping - Smash or Pass?
If you're looking for a great way to recover and relax as a professional therapist works away all your aches and pains, then Gua Sha therapy may be the best bet for you. It can really help to break up that stiff and sore muscle tissue leading to a sense of relief and better flexibility and mobility. For Shanie, muscle scraping is a total SMASH.
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