Body scraping, Gua Sha, Graston technique, and other ways to relieve pain and improve the way you move.
Have you ever used a Gua Sha stone or received one as a gift? Have you ever brushed or scraped an area as recommended by your athletic trainer in college?
The NY Times recently published an article on some of these methods which have been around for thousands of years. According to the NY Times, these methods are supposed to improve lymphatic drainage.
The lymphatic system is a series of vessels, tissues, and organs that are part of our immune system. The lymphatic system is used to wash away many of these waste products to expel them out of the body.
The evidence that these methods help pump the lymphatic system out is not very convincing at this time, but things like Gua sha and instrument-assisted soft tissue techniques (IASTM) such as Graston do improve interstitial glide which improves the function of soft tissues. While it sounds logical that these methods pump out anything, is there any real benefit to your overall health?
While the science for many interventions is weak including exercises alone for lower back pain; when properly targeted, and tested, the right exercise can make all the difference. As one doctor said in a seminar last week, “I can get you doing this exercise really well, but I have no proof that it is solving your problem”. The same can be said for IASTM which will improve function over the short term, but long term in my experience, you must understand the mechanism behind the dysfunction to actually improve function and prevent a reoccurrence of the problem you are attempting to solve.
In clinical practice, if using IASTM improves tissue glide, and movement ability while reducing pain and remolding restricted soft tissues to allow improved strength and function, it proves its worth. If the method is just an alternative fad without any clinical benefit, perhaps it is just a fad that people will try and then move on from.
Used properly in the right frame of practice, these methods have helped me offer relief of problems that are chronically painful and with the right thought process behind them, are hugely beneficial. On the other hand, an athletic trainer who hands a Graston tool to a student to scrape the area of pain without first understanding why the patient hurt is a huge waste of time. I saw this years ago with a college-age pitcher scraping his shoulder when the problem actually was caused by the hip flexors on the other side. In the world of sports chiropractic, there is no substitute for a great evaluation and history before we ever use a Graston tool.
Does this affect the lymphatic system? Not sure if it does but the lymphatic system does work to clear the area of damaged tissue allowing and assisting while the body developed new and more flexible fascia in the area we treated.
What is a patient to do? Perhaps this article from the NY Times may answer these questions or maybe not. Check it out below
Dry Brushing, Body Scraping, Gua Sha: Lymphatic Health Is All the Rage
These wellness practices — which center on one invisible network of vessels and nodes — have soared in popularity in recent years. Should you try them?
By Hannah Seo Sept. 12, 2022
Scroll through TikTok and Instagram for long enough and you’ll likely find someone scraping, brushing or massaging their skin in pursuit of better health or an enhanced appearance. Testimonies abound — about body scraping to loosen stiff limbs, gua sha for a sculpted jawline, vibrating facial massagers to reduce puffiness, dry brushing for “detoxing.” Such posts have amassed tens of millions of views on TikTok in recent years, with celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Elle Macpherson attesting to their effectiveness.
All of these trendy techniques center on the same concept: promoting the circulation of a colorless, watery fluid called lymph, which ferries white blood cells to and from the body’s organs and transports waste from cells and tissues to the lymph nodes, where it is filtered and fed back into the bloodstream. The sweeping movement of dry brushing — in which you’re supposed to whisk a stiff-bristled brush in small circles all over your body — and the pulses of a vibrating facial massager are supposed to gently knead out any potential blockages in lymphatic flow. Gua sha, in which you scrape a stone or metal tool along the contours of your face; body scraping, which is a full-body version of gua sha that uses similar tools; and jade rolling, in which you roll a rounded stone tool over your face, are techniques intended to physically push, or drain, lymphatic fluid toward the lymph nodes, where it is filtered and then moved back into the bloodstream.
Curious about IASTM and other methods that can reduce pain and improve the way you move? Book online.