Why Acupuncture Works for Seniors

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

For more than two years I worked at a pain clinic that happened to be attached to a long term care facility inhabited by elderly patients. Many of them were my patients, and although their treatments at the clinic were multidisciplinary (seeing many types of doctors and receiving different types of treatments depending on their issues), I found that acupuncture really worked wonders on the eldery patients from next door.

Older patients present some unique problems. Firstly, many of them are on a myriad of medications for a wide variety of conditions. I found that I really had to sit down with them and take the time in the initial consultation to document what medications they were on and then research and make sure that none of them could be reacting with each other and causing any of the problems they were coming to see me for. I was really amazed at how many medications my elderly patients were taking. Many of them weren't sure what they were for, and others had been on them for so long that they had forgotten why they had been given.

In Chinese medical theory, as a person ages, their vital energy, life force or "Jing" is seen to be in a gradual decline. This is healthy and a natural part of aging. However, we are only born with a finite amount, and the way we live our lives determines how it is used, wheather it is wisely, or not. This is illustrated by a person who has lived hard, done a lot of partying, drinking, drugs... they usually have a worn out appearance and often look older than they actually are. They have been depleting their Jing, and it is aging them prematurely.

The other thing that I noticed about the seniors that I treated, was what a huge difference taking some time to sit and speak with them made. Making a connection and showing that I was really listening to them made a huge difference in their treatment and ultimately, their prognosis. This may seem obvious, that a little kindness goes a long way, but often in the medical profession, and in particular with seniors, doctors don't have (or take) the time to really listen. Of course, they are the experts on disease and illness, but who knows their body better than the patient? Allowing a patient to relay to you their experience of what is happening, what is out of balance or causing them pain is an important aspect of the treatment and subsequent healing process.

Another thing that I noticed is that my senior patients were rarely touched. Touch is such an important part of our lives. Important physiologically for things like the nervous system, and emotionally for a feeling of connectedness, affection and purpose. I found that sometimes they would hold my hand while telling me how they were doing just to feel a connection to another person. So, I always tried to incorporate some massage into the treatment which they always loved. Because stagnation occurs often in the elderly, massage (and acupuncture of course) are very moving and stimulating to the body helping to move stagnation and keep things flowing freely.

Why Acupuncture is So Good for Seniors

Because of all these factors acupuncture works very well for seniors. You don't have to worry about drug interactions (which are especially dangerous in the elderly), and it can be applied in as gentle a fashion as needed depending on the patients requirements.

Because many seniors exhibit long standing deficiencies, they are not as sensitive and by the time a symptom is felt, it is often very serious (children are the opposite), and acupuncture is a powerful tool and able to be used on sensitive or very deficient patients. It's many modalities are also useful like dietary therapy (I found many seniors were not eating a balanced diet), emotional wellness (which I was attending to by speaking with them and allowing them to express what they were feeling), and the importance of exercise. Many did not get out or even do much moving around. As part of their treatment I always advised walking, even if it was around the halls, but going outside and getting some fresh air and being out in nature is always preferable. This is good for moving energy, getting the blood flowing and improving mood.

We had a physiotherapist in the clinic and we set up a program for her to go next door 3 times a week to do an exercise class with the seniors. It was so popular the class was always packed and the staff noticed a marked improvement in the overall health and mood of the residents.

Another common problem is depression. Often senior citizens are living in facilities like this because they are unwell, unable to take care of themselves, and have lost a spouse. These all take a toll on our psyche, so depression is common. Any of these on its own is a huge adjustment, but they often come together so it isn't hard to imagine that many people become depressed when these major life changes occur. Some withdraw and shut down, some become angry and frustrated at their situation, and some become sad and depressed. I found that the more connected to the world and other people, the better they did. If they had visitors, saw their friends and children, or went on outings, they were happier and more balanced and overall, healthier.

Thankfully, acupuncture and Chinese medicine have many ways to deal with depression. Like everything in TCM there are many types of, and reasons for depression to take up residence, but a thorough intake and accurate diagnosis can help the patient on their way to recovery. I saw many patients improve dramatically, and seeing their healing was perhaps the most rewarding of my career. My senior patients were some of the most interesting (the stories! They have seen so much of history!), most kind hearted and appreciative patients I have treated.

We live in a society that does not value its older citizens the way most cultures do. In many cultures around the world the oldest members of the family, village, or town are the most revered as they have something the younger people do not... wisdom. And wisdom is something that can only be gained by living, so the oldest among us are the wise. In our culture in the West we do not have the same reverence for our elderly, and they are often put into homes, abandoned and forgotten when they have so much to offer and to teach us. I learn so much from all my patients, but I think I have learned the most from my senior patients who have lived longer, seen more and experienced life to an extent that I have not, at least not yet... ;)


Natural Remedies for Varicose Veins

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

Varicose veins are unsightly, sometimes painful, swollen, knotted veins, usually in the legs. They are the result of poor circulation and weakened elasticity in the walls of the veins (that carry blood back to the heart). There are many factors that can contribute to varicose veins, like heredity, standing for long periods, lack of exercise, being overweight, pregnancy and poor nutrition can all contribute to varicose veins.

Dietary Factors

One of the most important things to eat to improve varicose veins is to eat more fiber. When we strain or hold our breath when we pass stool it puts added pressure on the veins in the rectum which can lead to hemorrhoids (just vericose veins in your anus). If you want to have stools that flow freely, then more fiber in your diet is the way to do it.

Adding vitamin C, vitamin E and garlic to your diet to help combat varicose veins.

Another consideration is to always try to avoid processed foods. The biggest baddies (the 4 evils) are processed oil, sugar, flour and rice. Always seek out the healthy, unprocessed alternative to each. Cold pressed oils, eating fruits like blueberries (which will also add fiber and antioxidants) instead of sugary snacks, whole wheat, spelt and other whole grain flours, and brown or wild rice will improve your nutrition and add fiber to your diet.

Add Foods Containing Rutin to Your Diet

The best foods to combat varicose veins are ones that contain rutin. Rutin is part of a large family of riboflavanoids which have multiple effects on the body, the most important of which is to reduce the fragility and permeability of capillaries which reduces your risk of developing new varicose veins.

Rutin has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, vaso protective (protects the blood vessels) and anti-thrombotic (protects from blood clots) properties. Pretty awesome!

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Natural Sources of Rutin

• Buckwheat

• Apple (especially the skin, so try to buy organic to avoid pesticides)

• Cherries

• Grapes

• Blackberries

• Apricot

To avoid or improve varicose veins, one should eat a diet high in fiber, vitamin E, vitamin C and rutin (a riboflavonoid found in buckwheat and the pith of citrus fruits). Also, use garlic as a supplement and/or use it in cooking.

Supplements

One of the best supplements you can take for varicose veins is horse chestnut. It has the specific action of strengthening the walls of blood vesels.

What Can I Do?

• Exercise gently

• Do not sit with legs crossed

• Avoid standing for long periods

• Rest with legs raised

• Sleep with legs slightly elevated

• Inverted yoga postures are beneficial

• Don't take hot baths

Beneficial Aromatherapy Oils

Cypress, geranium, rose, yarrow, Virginian cedarwood, clary sage, frankincense, myrrh

Notes

Cypress and rose are extremely helpful to tone blood vessels and reduce dilation

Massage Oil/Cream Recipe for Vericose Veins

Make up a massage oil or cream containing 7-10 drops each of geranium (or 5 drops of rose), yarrow and cypress oil in 2fl oz/50ml calendula oil or cream and rub gently into the area around or above the veins. DO NOT apply pressure directly to them or below them, and work up the legs towards the heart. Elevate your legs after the massage. Repeat this massage daily.

To Help Swelling

To help reduce swelling, apply local cold compresses soaked in witch hazel.

Improving the Circulatory System

Take warm (not hot) baths with 8-10 drops of a circulatory stimulant such as rosemary or juniper can help improve the condition of the circulatory system as a whole.

Leg Exercises for Varicose Veins

A list of beneficial leg exercises for varicose veins


Interview with Andrew Schlabach - Co-Founder & President of The Acupuncture Relief Project

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac, AP

Andrew Schlabach, who is co-founder and president of the Acupuncture Relief Project, kindly agreed to sit down and answer a few questions about his organization and all the good things they are doing with their clinic in Nepal.

For those who don’t know about your organization, could you tell us a little bit about it?

Acupuncture Relief Project (ARP), along with our local partners, operates a small primary care clinic in a rural village of Nepal. Founded in 2008, Acupuncture Relief Project provides healthcare practitioners of various disciplines an opportunity to gain valuable field experience while making a positive impact on the local community. Our efforts include the treatment of patients living with HIV and AIDs as well as people suffering from extreme poverty and social disenfranchisement. We are a completely volunteer-based project and rely on a grassroots approach to sustainability and community support.

Why did you choose Nepal? Did you have a personal connection to it, or did you think it would be the place that would most benefit from this type of clinic?

I had the privilege of working as a mountaineering instructor at the notorious Himalayan Mountain Institute in Darjeeling India and participated in several expeditions in Nepal, Tibet and Northern India. Through this experience I fell in love with Nepal and its people. Later when I trained as an acupuncturist I envisioned a program which would not only provide service to a community that had very little access to medical care but would also provide an opportunity for healthcare practitioners to experience the complexities and hardships of the developing world. Hopefully providing an experience which challenges practitioners to connect to a deeper understanding of their medicine and foster the growth of compassionate wisdom.

Were the local Nepalese people open and receptive to coming to the clinic to get acupuncture, or did it take some time for them to warm up to it?

We don't characterize ourselves as an "Acupuncture" clinic even though we are primarily staffed by acupuncture physicians. Mostly we are just a primary care clinic... a place where anyone can come to get medical care and advice. Like anywhere in the world, some people are very open-minded about acupuncture and some are very skeptical. Once we establish trust, it doesn't really matter whether we are using acupuncture or allopathic medicine, people know they can come in and we will do our best to help them. It is very difficult to describe to people in developed countries what it means to live without access to care. Many times our job is more about patient education, assessment and referral than it is about any particular treatment modality. Just the fact that we can assess whether a child's fever is manageable or an emergency provides the community with a priceless resource.

Acupuncture Relief Project

Did the locals have any prior knowledge of what acupuncture was?

Not really. We get asked many times a day "what kind of medicine is on the needle". We explain that there isn't any and that we are simply assisting their body in healing itself. That is probably a bit mystifying but then, after couple treatments, they start getting better. Then they bring their whole family.

You have a group of wonderful local interpreters who work with the practitioners. Is the language barrier still difficult?

Our interpreters are world class professionals and they continue to improve. Several of them have worked with us since the beginning. The difficulty for both us and the interpreters is the limitation of the language itself. There are three common languages in the area in which we operate. Nepali, Newari, and Tamang. Each language has it's own unique limitation. For example in Newari there is only one word for the torso which translates in English to "heart". A patient may come in complaining of "Heart Disease" which for us only narrows it down to the torso. They could be suffering from anything from indigestion to angina to hepatitis. They don't have specific words or an understanding of internal organs so our interpreters do the best they can and we rely on many non-verbal cues and diagnositics to direct our assessments.

What are some of the conditions that you treat most?

People in the village are mostly subsistence farmers and they work very hard throughout their lives. About 65% of patients that we see are coming in for chronic pain. Low back, neck and knees particularly. This is something acupuncture is quite good at addressing and we see very good results in getting people back to work so they can take care of their families. We also see a multitude of other conditions including digestive disorders, hypertension, diabetes, stroke, febrile stroke, uterine prolapse, asthma, tuberculosis and typhoid. We also sometimes deal with social issues like domestic violence and substance abuse.

Do you only use acupuncturists?

No. We primarily use acupuncturists because this treatment modality allows us to treat a large number of people for very little money or overhead. The clinic also hosts herbalists, Tibetan traditional practitioners, homeopaths and massage therapists. We have also had several allopathic and naturopathic physicians work with us. We try to provide as much care as possible and we find that we do very well without the overhead of a pharmaceutical dispensary. We do utilize a small stock of antibiotics and other drugs when we need to but we will try to get a patient to an appropriate facility a patient has a serious or emergency condition.

Acupuncture Relief Project

What were some of the things that surprised you about running the clinic in Nepal?

I think what continues to amaze me is how much impact a small clinic can have on so many people. Not only our patients who of course benefit from our care but also our interpreters who have meaningful jobs supporting their own communities. Additionally our volunteer practitioners continuously report to us the effects of their experience in Nepal. Many have shared how they have gained a new appreciation for patient care and that has carried forward into their own practices and communities.

About how many people do you treat a day?

The clinic sees about 80-120 people per day. We also conduct several outreach clinics in outlaying villages each week.

Do you have any idea how many patients you have treated since the clinic began?

Well over 100,000 patient visits.

Is the clinic operational full time, or only at certain times of the year when you can bring volunteers?

Yes. There are practitioners at the clinic year round, however the clinic runs at varied capacity depending on the availability of volunteers and other resources. Organizationally, we focus particularly on our training program which operated from September to March every year. During this time the clinic opperates is at it's maximum capacity. The availability of healthcare in the winter months is particularly critical to the village so we prioritize our efforts for this time of the year.

Acupuncture is very cost effective compared to Western medicine. How much does it cost to run the clinic?

Again, we characterize ourselves as a primary care clinic and not an "acupuncture" clinic. We utilize a variety of modalities (including Western medicine) and attempt to determine the "best" care for a particular patient. In many cases, acupuncture is the "best" care.  The total cost of operation including all of our herbal and western dispensary, we provide primary care year round for about $4.80 USD per patient visit. I don't wish to take anything away from other types of service projects but for sake of comparison, you can compare us to a visiting medical/dental camp which operates in Nepal for a few weeks each year which costs $24-30 USD per visit. I will say that the dental services that they provide are worth every penny to the communities they serve.

Acupuncture Relief Project

What is the most difficult thing about running the clinic?

I think with any service project there are constant stresses around resources. There is never enough money, time or volunteers to accomplish everything you might envision. Also, as a US based non-profit there are many logistical complexities of operating a clinic half way around the world. All of these are relatively minor in the grand scheme but they must be constantly addressed in order to insure our long term sustainability.

What would you like to see the Acupuncture Relief Project do in the future?

Training local practitioners is our ultimate goal and one that we are actively trying to solve. In 2011, we fully funded a scholarship for one student only to be setback as the only Oriental Medicine school in Nepal became defunct. We have now adopted an apprenticeship program for two students and we are also exploring the possibility of sponsoring a student to study in the US, Canada, Australia or China. Our major obstacle is a lack of legitimate accreditation and licensure in Nepal so obviously this issue will be on our list for awhile.

Acupuncture Relief Project

Here is some more information about Andrew from the Acupuncture Relief Project website...

Andrew Schlabach MAcOM EAMP

Andrew Schlabach is the co-founder and President of the Acupuncture Relief Project having received his Masters in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from the Oregon College of Oriental Medicine in 2008. His master’s research project founded a Practice Based Research Network for Oriental medicine practitioners and researchers in Oregon and Southwest Washington in collaboration with the Helfgott Research Institute. Now practicing at Healthwerks - Acupuncture Wellness Clinic, Vancouver Washington he is the author and publisher of the Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal Medicine - Clinic Survival Guide. Mr. Schlabach also served as President and Creative Director of Split Diamond Media, Inc. of Portland Oregon for 15 years. Specializing in business-to-business advertising, Split Diamond Media pioneered digital publishing technologies and internet services for a variety of regional and national companies. Mr. Schlabach is also an accomplished mountaineer with expedition experience in the Himalayas, distinguishing himself as an instructor at the prestigious Himalayan Mountain Institute in Darjeeling India. Having travel extensively in central Asia, Mr. Schlabach has become a student of world theology, Tai Ji and yoga. As a veteran of the U.S. Army, he received an Army Commendation Medal for distinguished service to his unit.

To learn more about The Acupuncture Relief Project and the wonderful work they are doing, please visit their website at www.acupuncturereliefproject.org

And be sure to watch the 30 minute documentary, Compassion Connects about their clinic in Nepal. It is incredibly inspiring!


Debunking Acupuncture Myths - Part 2

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

Myth: Anyone Can Practice Acupuncture and You Don’t Have to go to School to Study it

Truth: Not anyone can practice acupuncture, and you must go to school for many years to become a licensed practitioner.

I love this one. I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked if I had to do any schooling to become an acupuncturist. The answer is yes, did I ever.

The amount of education required to become an acupuncturist varies by country, state and province. On average an acupuncturist spends between 3-6 years in school full time studying both Chinese and Western medicine and must have many clinical hours before they graduate. The number of clinical hours at my school was 780.

This question actually used to hurt my feelings. But now I realize that many people simply don’t know much about acupuncture and what is involved in its study. An important thing to note is that acupuncturists and practitioners of Chinese medicine study both Chinese and Western medicine. We must understand Chinese concepts like qi, jing and shen, but must also have a solid command of anatomy, physiology, pathology and diagnosis. Acupuncturists do a large component on nutrition, and have to learn many modalities used in TCM like cupping, guasha, moxibustion, electro acupuncture and tui na. There are also classes on how to speak to patients, being empathetic, listening and observation. The human component of the patient is an important part of both diagnosis and treatment. Meditation, qi gong and ba gua (a martial art) were large components of my TCM education. We meditated before each class to clear our minds and help us focus, and before exams. Discussions between students and clinic supervisors to go over case studies were common while doing our clinical hours and there were many papers written during our course of study.

Licensing, like education varies depending on where you are. In most places, you must finish your education with an accredited school of TCM where you have completed all your courses, passed your exams and completed all your clinical hours. You are then issued a license, must purchase insurance and you are ready to practice. If you would like to know what type of education your acupuncturist has completed and how licensing works where you live, ask them. I am sure they would be happy to explain it to you.

Myth: Acupuncture Hurts

Truth: Acupuncture does not hurt.

This is probably the one I hear the most. Many people have a fear of needles and are afraid that acupuncture will be painful. Your experience with acupuncture depends largely on your acupuncturist. My experience with my acupuncturist was painless. There was never pain with the needles. I have since had acupuncture with many practitioners and it really depends. Some were very gentle, and some were not. Acupuncture does not have to be painful. I am very gentle. I do not like pain if it is not necessary.

I think there is a lot of fear associated with acupuncture because people simply don’t understand it. I hope writing this will help. Acupuncture needles are tiny, not the hollow point needles used to take blood or give injections. Acupuncture is not painful, quite the contrary, most people find it relaxing and rejuvenating. Of course the treatment depends on your practitioner, but as a rule, I would say that acupuncture doesn’t hurt or at least, it doesn’t have to.

Myth: Acupuncture only works if you believe it will (Acupuncture has only a placebo effect)

Truth: If you don’t believe acupuncture will work, the effect will probably be lessened.

This is an interesting one. In my last year of school I wrote my thesis on the mind and its connection to healing. I read many books on the subject and I found them extremely enlightening. I think that the mind is a large component in most things we do. I think if you go into anything believing that it will help you, then chances are much better that it will. The mind is a powerful tool, and there are many studies illustrating its healing effect.

My basic answer to this one is that one of the most important things in life (and an acupuncture treatment) is being OPEN. If you come in for an acupuncture treatment being open to the possibility that it may work, the prognosis will be much better than if you are convinced that it won’t. This is just common sense. This has been illustrated time and again in trials using placebos.

If someone came to see me and said that they absolutely didn’t think acupuncture worked, I would wonder what they were doing in my office. I would suggest that they find something they thought would work and to try that. There is no point trying to convince a closed mind.

*Note - something interesting that I discovered during my research on my thesis about the mind and its effect on healing, was that attitude and openness had a huge impact on peoples ability to recover from serious diseases. They did many studies which illustrated that people who were rigid and closed in their thinking tended to suffer more and die more quickly than people who were positive and open to different types of treatment. The second group lived longer, had better quality of life and if there was recovery or remission, the people were usually in this group.

Myth: You can get diseases from Acupuncture because of dirty needles

Truth: Modern acupuncturists use disposable needles, so no worry about disease transmission

This is a common myth. Modern acupuncturists use sterile, disposable needles. In ancient China, there were problems with hygiene, and needles were reused and diseases spread. There may be places in the world where health regulations are not up to the standards we are used to in the West, so my advice to you would be to ask.

Every place I have ever had acupuncture, the needles were disposable - one time use. That is the only kind I use. One of the exams that acupuncturists take is dedicated to clean needle technique. This covers all aspects of needling, including hygiene, hand washing, germ theory, sterilization, etc. It also covers everything that could happen when needling a patient.

When you fill out the initial intake form when you first go to see an acupuncturist, they will ask you questions like if you have a bleeding disorder (which affects treatment), or if you have any blood borne diseases like HIV. This is for the safety of the acupuncturist, so they can be aware to be especially careful when dealing with blood.

Myth: Acupuncture is for people who believe in witchcraft, voodoo and astrology

Truth: Maybe. And so what? I hear voodoo is pretty dope.

I sometimes hear that acupuncture has been lumped in with things like witchcraft, voodoo and astrology. People sometimes think that if you believe in acupuncture that you must not have a rational mind and are incapable of logic and reason. If you are an intelligent person, you would never subscribe to something like acupuncture, you would stand firmly on the side of science and medicines that can be quantified and qualified.

I would say to anyone with this thinking that they are just misinformed. I do not profess to know much about witchcraft, voodoo or astrology, but I do know a little about acupuncture. I can tell you that there are no goat entrails, dead chickens or astral charts used in my practice. Acupuncture is based on a long history of medicine in China and is still employed by a large part of the population there. Acupuncturists have an honest desire to help people get better. The TCM practitioner teaches how to live, not dependence on their treatments. The goal is wellness.

The truth is, we need both - Eastern and Western medicine. Western medicine has much to offer. Advances in diagnostics, testing and imaging have helped save many lives. It is my opinion that if the two could work together, there is no limit to what we could achieve and the lives that could be saved. Every modality has its strengths and weaknesses. You can’t use a wrench to fix every problem with your car, you need a full set of tools at your disposal. And the most important thing is choice. We are blessed to live in a world where we have choice. We are all lucky to have the ability to seek out whatever type of treatment we want, depending on our ailment and our beliefs. Opinions are one thing, but trying to take choice away from people is something else altogether. I sincerely hope that through education, and an openness to information, more and more people will learn about the benefits of this wonderful medicine, so that for those of us who believe, will always have the choice to use it.

I will leave you with a quote...

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.  ~ Aristotle

Acupuncture Research Studies

Studies on Acupuncture and Chinese medicine, listed by category - Acupuncture.com

http://www.acupuncture.com/research/

Acupuncture studies - Science Daily

http://www.sciencedaily.com/search/?keyword=acupuncture+research
List of acupuncture studies - National Centre for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
http://search2.google.cit.nih.gov/search?q=acupuncture+research&site=NCCAM&client=NCCAM_frontend&proxystylesheet=
NCCAM_frontend&output=xml_no_dtd&filter=0&getfields=*&proxyreload=1&x=0&y=0

Articles about Acupuncture in the military

http://www.ukiahclinic.com/blog/doctors-specialists-use-acupuncture-to-treat-vetrans/
http://www.statesman.com/news/local/military-tries-acupuncture-to-treat-troops-for-ptsd-757786.html
http://hprc-online.org/blog/acupuncture-in-military-medicine-is-a-growing-phenomenon#.UDU3-GhShXc
http://www.news-medical.net/news/20120105/Special-issue-explores-military-applications-of-acupuncture.aspx


What is Gua Sha?

By Emma Suttie, D.Ac

Gua Sha is a medical treatment used in Chinese medicine and throughout South East Asia. In Indonesia the technique is called Kerik, in Vietnam: Cao Yio and in Laos: Khoud Lam.

“Gua” means to scrape or rub. “Sha” is the term for the reddish raised skin rash that occurs as a result of the scraping. Sha refers to the blood stagnation in the subcutaneous tissues before and after it is raised as the reddish skin rash (petechiae) or bruising (ecchymosis).

Gua Sha involves lubricating the skin with oil (traditionally a thick oil such as peanut was used) and using a smooth edged instrument, the acupuncturist uses long or short strokes causing redness or bruising. The most common areas for treatment are the yang areas of the body such as the back, neck, shoulders, buttocks, limbs. Occasionally the chest and abdomen are used as well. There are also types of facial Gua Sha that are used in conjunction with cosmetic acupuncture treatments to help increase circulation, elasticity and firmness of the skin.

Gua Sha does however cause temporary ecchymosis (or bruising) which fades in 2-4 days. In TCM theory, the intensity/severity of the bruising is an indication of the severity of the toxicity, stagnation or fever inside the body.

What Does Gua Sha Treat?

Gua Sha is used to treat as well as prevent the common cold, flu, bronchitis, asthma, and pain both acute and chronic. It is also used to detoxify the body, and alleviates fevers as the scraping brings the excess heat and toxins to the surface of the body to be released.

When used for pain there may be an achy feeling, tenderness or knotted feeling in the muscles. It is excellent for treating colds or flus especially if there are respiratory problems or high fever. Any problems of qi or blood stagnation can be successfully treated with Gua Sha.

Gua Sha has a special function to relieve fevers and inflammation of the respiratory system, and performs very well in conjunction with acupuncture and cupping for these conditions.

What Does The “Sha” Tell You?

The colour and intensity of the Sha is both diagnostic and prognostic. If the Sha is very light in colour it indicates a deficiency of blood. If the Sha is a fresh and intense red, it means the condition is acute and has not yet penetrated deep into the body. If the Sha is black or purple in colour it indicates blood stagnation which means the condition has been long standing. If the Sha is brown, there may be dryness in the body and a deficiency of fluids. Dark deep red Sha indicates heat. The Sha is a good reflection of detoxification and fever release.

What Tools Do You Use for Gua Sha?

There are many things that can be used to do Gua Sha. Traditionally, a slice of water buffalo horn, a piece of jade, a Chinese soup spoon, or a coin were used. You can basically use anything with a rounded edge. Now there are many tools of various sizes and shapes that are used for Gua Sha. Below is a photo of some common Gua Sha tools.

It is also important to lubricate the skin before administering the Gus Sha. Various massage oils can be used. You can also use peanut oil, almond oil, coconut oil or vicks vaporub as a lubricant.

How is Gua Sha Applied?

The area of skin to be treated is applied with oil as a lubricating medium. The acupuncturist then takes the Gua Sha tool and strokes the skin in a downward motion until the petechia form. If there is no blood stasis, stagnation or fever, a rash (petechiae) will not form and the skin will only turn pink.

Gua Sha is stimulating to the immune system, detoxifies, increases circulation, regulates organ function, normalizes metabolic processes, removes stagnation and eases pain. After a Gua Sha treatment, a patient usually feels a shift or release especially if there was pain. There is often sweating which is the body’s way of releasing toxins that have been inside the body. Gua Sha revitalizes, rejuvenates, helps diminish stress, fatigue and severe exhaustion. It helps to release emotions, relaxes the body and helps to clear the mind and senses. Gua Sha is a simple treatment, but incredibly effective for many ailments which is why it has been used in China and South East Asia for thousands of years.