Deep muscle pain? Give Gua sha a try

At our clinic, we take an integrated and holistic approach to healing aches and ailments. Often that means combining various therapies to create a personalized treatment plan for our clients.

While Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has employed different treatments in unison for thousands of years, other health practices are more recent converts. One such approach that has been gaining attention in the last decade is known by the acronym FAKTR — Functional and Kinetic Treatment with Rehab.

Typically used to treat chronic or acute sports injuries and myofascial disorders, FAKTR involves a variety of soft tissue mobilization techniques to treat the “kinetic chain” (i.e. the interconnected chain of muscles in the body) while also utilizing various forms of rehabilitation.

One of the main mobilization techniques used in FAKTR is Gua sha, a TCM treatment used to treat muscular pain, stiffness and immobility by freeing blockages of blood or Qi (pronounced “chi”). Gua sha is a hands-on treatment: gua means “to rub” or, more literally, “press stroke” and sha is a term that describes blood congestion in surface tissue.

During a Gua sha treatment, oil is placed on the skin over the affected area and a tool is used to “scrape” the skin, which frees the blockage and restores normal circulation. Though there can be some discomfort at some stages of the treatment, most patients experience immediate changes in stiffness and pain, with increased mobility.

Gua sha can effectively resolve spasms and pain, and it promotes circulation to the muscles, tissues and organs. Because Gua sha mimics sweating — cooling the patient who feels too warm, warming the patient who feels too cold — it can also help to resolve fever while relaxing tension and reducing anxiety.

The effectiveness of Gua sha is evidenced by the number and variety of healthcare practitioners using it – albeit under different names, for example IASTM and Graston.

Dr. Ross Ralph, Dr. TCM, R.Ac., is an osteopathic, manual therapy and myofascial specialist at Courtenay Healing Centre. He can be reached at 250-338-2866 or

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