Weight training comes with a fair share of risk, and there is always a possibility of straining or tearing muscles, or developing painful tendonitis or a slap tear. Anyone who spends a lot of time in the gym will know how back, shoulder or neck pain can severely limit your workout routine. While applying ice to the painful area, getting some rest, foam rolling, or even some cortisone might temporarily treat the pain, it doesn’t always serve to treat the root cause. When it comes to techniques for preventing and treating injuries related to training, gua sha is something of a hidden gem. The greatest benefit comes from the almost immediate pain relief. Painfully strained muscles will relax and recover more quickly after a gua sha treatment, and the relief goes deeper and lasts longer than from regular massage.
It’s a completely natural, drug-free, and hands-on treatment. Another plus is that the technique is easy to learn, and it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. You can treat many areas of the body by yourself, or you can always get your training partner or a friend to help with the areas you can’t reach – like the upper traps, neck, and back. You only need a few minutes. Gua sha might not be very well-known in the West, but it’s a perfectly natural remedy that has been used to treat muscle pain and congestion for centuries. In the East it’s a common household treatment, and besides being a fantastic cure for the congestion related to colds and flu, it also does wonders for muscle pain. That’s good news for anyone who is a weight trainer.
The Science Behind Gua Sha Treatments for Training
Slowly but surely gua sha is starting to get some well-deserved recognition from health and fitness experts. What's more, scientists at the US National Institute of Health have begun to investigate why gua sha is so effective for reducing pain. While much research still needs to be done, the initial results already prove that this folk remedy is in fact effective. Besides offering relief from pain, gua sha also facilitates your weightlifting ability. A 2014 study, published in Science Direct confirms it. The study involved five weight trainers from a sport school in China, and it examined how gua sha affects the body during weight training. ‘A course of scraping therapy (another name for gua sha) was applied during a 7-week weightlifting program. The ability of weightlifting was evaluated by measuring the maximum values of the snatch, clean and jerk, deadlift, and back squat. The results: Gua sha ‘caused a significant increase in weightlifting ability, mainly by decreasing weight sensation and improving serum biochemical parameters.’ A similar study in 2015 also points to the benefits of gua sha. This time 15 weightlifters and 10 normal healthy test subjects were compared for heart rate variability (HRV). It’s clear that the treatment works.
HRV is an important biomarker. It is a measure of the change in the time intervals between adjacent heartbeats, and a clear indication of the body’s efficiency and health. A healthy HRV means improved blood pressure, total cholesterol and fasting glucose levels and reduced overall stress and fatigue. Gua sha is clearly beneficial, and it’s perfectly safe, even for self-treatment, and there are already several scientific studies out there supporting it. After a gua sha session, especially the first one, the skin will become red, and “sha” (or petechiae) will appear. The dramatic marking might look like bruising, but actually it’s a good sign. With further treatments less and less of this marking will appear on the skin, which is an indication that treatment has been successful. As toxins are flushed from your system, the marking reduces, and within two or three days it vanishes completely.
Does Gua Sha Help for Slimming?
While there is no concrete scientific evidence that gua sha is effective for getting rid of unwanted body fat, it is offered in many spa treatment centers along with cupping, acupuncture and other methods. As part of a program that includes a balanced diet, as well as regular exercise, gua sha can help reduce body fat and help to treat the appearance of cellulite. Gua sha stimulates blood circulation, as well as the release of beneficial anti-oxidants and enzymes like HO-1, and it stimulates the Qi flow in your body. Health benefits include improved digestion, liver and gall bladder function as well as immune system – all of which are linked to weight loss. So, in other words: No, it’s not a miracle cure for slimming, but it certainly helps!