This is the second part of my Traditional Chinese Medicine series at the Taipei City Hospital with Dr. Tzu Ying Lai. These photos were taken by Joanna Rees for Discover Taipei magazine.
After Joanna finished shooting my cupping session, Dr. Tzu demonstrated a scraping method called Gua Sha.
Its principles are similar to those of cupping and has similar effects on the body, and I’m telling you right now, I would never ever do this again. It caused more damage and issues than I thought possible.
When I think about my Fibromyalgia diagnosis and how bad my allodynia and hyperalgesia are, I can’t believe I put myself through this. It was a really dumb decision on my part.
Allodynia is pain due to a stimulus that does not usually provoke pain, such as wearing tight clothing or someone touching you when your nerves are particularly troublesome.
Hyperalgesia is increased pain from something that provokes pain, like scraping for Chinese Traditional Medicine. It has prominent symptoms in patients with neuropathic pain.
Gua sha involves scraping the skin with smooth, pressured strokes. Doctors apply a lubricant to the skin and use a smooth edged tool to scrape the skin.
Dr. Tzu used a piece of buffalo horn to scrape long four inch strokes on my upper shoulders. Coins, soup spoons and pieces of polished plastic can also be used to administer this treatment.
Scraping was not a pleasant experience for me. I hated it and only put up with a few minutes of this treatment before I told the doctor to stop.
Even Joanna was shocked when my skin turned red and black within seconds of starting the scraping. My skin felt ultra-sensitive and raw. It was a strange experience and one I will never repeat.
An hour later, I felt like I had been whipped, and the pain grew worse for a week afterwards. I wondered if Dr. Tzu had done some serious damage to one of the most painful parts of my body.
When I got home, I decided to delve a little deeper into the mysteries of scraping. I found a website called Gua Sha, written by Arya Neilson. She is the author of Gua Sha: A Traditional Technique for Modern Practice and a professor and licensed practitioner of East Asian Medicine.
Her website states:
“Gua Sha is an East Asian healing technique. Gua means to scrape or rub. Sha is a ‘reddish, elevated, millet-like skin rash’ (aka petechiae).
Sha is the term used to describe Blood stasis in the subcutaneous tissue before and after it is raised as petechiae. Gua Sha is one technique that intentionally raises Sha rash or petechiae.
In Vietnam the technique is called Cao Yio, in Indonesia: Kerik, in Laos: Khoud Lam.
Gua Sha is used whenever a patient has pain whether associated with an acute or chronic disorder. There may be aching, tenderness and/or a
knotty feeling in the muscles.
Palpation reveals Sha when normal finger pressure on a patient’s skin causes blanching that is slow to fade. In addition to resolving musculoskeletal pain, Gua Sha is used to treat as well as prevent common cold, flu, bronchitis, asthma, as well as any chronic disorder
involving pain, congestion of Qi and Blood.”
After looking at Joanna’s pictures, I was able to see a distinct pattern arise. At the time, I wasn’t thinking about it. The darkest areas on my back are problem areas for me. First of all, that area is the worst part of my body for fibromyalgia. On some days, I can barely lift my arms or turn my neck because of the pain from fibromyalgia. I carry a lot of stress in my neck and right shoulder.
This became evident to the doctor within a few seconds of beginning the treatment. She flat out said that there are definite health issues in this area. (I never revealed what was going on with me, and honestly didn’t think this treatment would be so bad for me.)
There is a significant difference between my right and left shoulder. My pain has always been worse on my left side and that is clearly evident in the photos during this TCM demonstration.
Honestly, the pictures look as bad as they are. The redness and bruising died down in 10 days, but it was painful and unnecessary. I would never ever recommend it to someone who has fibromyalgia or other autoimmune issues that affect the musculoskeletal system or patients with allodynia.
To be honest, the cupping was okay, but I didn’t like the scraping at all.
I didn’t find any immediate sense of relief, but as Dr. Tzu said at the end of the session, “All patients are different. Everyone reacts in a different way.”