Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Gua Sha vs. Graston: From East to West

"Originality is nothing but judicious imitation. The most original
writers and creators borrowed one from another."

- Voltaire       

GS or GT?

There are currently so many disciplines of Manual Therapy and Bodywork out there, many cases, two or more of them are bound to be so similar in their approaches. Sometimes they came from two different geography, on opposite side of the world, but their philosophies are so alike, that the outcome are usually quite the same. Take for example the Western "Graston Technique" and the Eastern "Gua Sha".

Graston Technique (GT) was developed by David Graston in 1987. It is a manual method for treating disorders of the skeletal muscles and related connective tissue. It employs a collection of six stainless steel tools of particular shape and size, which are used by practitioners to palpate patients' bodies in order to detect and resolve adhesions in the muscles and tendons. Through cross-fiber friction, the soft tissue involved is massaged using the patented tools until small red spots called petechiae are achieved. They are based on the premise that adhesions and fibrosis are released by the process and that the ecchymotic area are indications of their presence. It is believed that the micro-trauma caused by the process will initiate a cascade of healing process that will realign and correct the old injury.

Gua Sha (GS) , on the other hand is a much older (much, much older) healing technique used throughout Asia for ages. Gua means to rub or friction. Sha is the term used to describe congestion of blood at the surface of the body. When friction is applied in repeated even strokes, the sha surfaces as small red petechiae. In minutes the petechiae fade into echymotic patches (just like GT). The sha disappears totally in two to four days. The color and rate of fading are both diagnostic and prognostic indicators as with GT.

The benefits of GT and GS are numerous and are almost the same. In GS: it moves stuck blood, promoting normal circulation to the muscles, tissues, and organs directly beneath the surface treated. In GT, the same process goes, but they have elaborated through research, that proved that the technique increases fibroblast activity to the area worked on. The patient experiences immediate changes in stiffness, pain and mobility, on both. Normal metabolic processes are restored by the movement of fluids as nutrients are carried to the tissues and metabolic wastes are carried away (both).

THE BIG DIFFERENCE: Licensed or Registered Massage Therapists in the US are not allowed to perform Graston Technique, and depending on the State and the Jurisdiction, we can only do so in certain circumstaces under the direct supervision and presence of a Licensed Allied Healtcare Practitioner (i.e. a Chiropractor or a Physician). To be qualified to perform Gua Sha, on the other hand, an LMT or CMT must undergo a separate certification, provided they meet the educational requirement. If certified to do GS, all you need is a soup ladel or a jar lid! The GT patented stainless tools cost almost a thousand dollars! But of course, why purchase, if you are not allowed to use them anyways! Learn Gua Sha and use a spoon instead!

- Leo Feraer-Oporto      

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