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Scraping Muscles: Should You Do It? Benefits and Effectiveness

This ancient Chinese technique can help increase mobility for athletes, but not everyone should try it.

Scraping muscles is a technique that many CrossFit athletes are aware of, but if you are not training to compete at a high-level tournament, you are probably hearing about it for the first time.

Scraping muscles has also different names depending on who you ask. It can be called Gua Sha, kerokan, scraping, spooning, coining, and some people refer to it as the Graston technique. Ultimately, they are one and the same.

What is it? How do you scrape the muscle? Is it dangerous or harmful? Can you do it alone? Keep on reading to find out.

scraping musclesSource: Unsplash

Disclaimer: all content within this article is provided for general information only and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional.

Scraping Muscles – What Is It?

Muscle scraping is part of traditional Eastern Chinese medicine and it needs a smooth-edged and blunt tool to be able to do it.

The technique involves repeated strokes with certain pressure utilising the tool over lubricated skin.

The smooth edge of the tool is placed against the oiled skin, pressed down firmly and moved down the muscles, in a scraping motion. Each stroke should be a maximum of 10 centimetres long.

One nice trick to keep in mind is to soak the tool in warm water before striking the skin. This helps the tool to glide more gently on the body and increases blood circulation even more.

At the end of a session, your skin should have red spots, sometimes quite dark ones.

Why Do It?

This ancient alternative medicine technique could help with chronic pain, increase mobility and help an athlete to recover faster after a strenuous workout session.

The strokes on the oily skin stimulate blood circulation in the affected area, breaking down scar tissue and treating muscle pain, which in turn promotes faster cell recovery.

Some practitioners claim that scraping muscles can help the immune system and reduce inflammation. It could be used to treat a cold, fever, chronic neck pain, lung problems, hepatitis B, migraine headaches, perimenopausal syndrome and even Tourette syndrome.

We even mentioned scraping muscles in an article for CrossFitters to improve their front rack mobility.

Can You Do Muscle Scraping Yourself?

In theory yes, although it is always better to have someone with a medical background perform the technique on your body.

Check out the video on TikTok. This person was scraping the heel of his foot. It is a small area and easily reachable. If you know how to perform the proper technique, then it should be no problem to do start scraping muscles yourself.

Scraping Muscles – I’ve Heard Of It, Isn’t It a Beauty Trend?

It can also be used for that, yes. With the popularity of TikTok and its fast videos with instructions, many users started creating how-to videos of makeup and skin-care and muscle scraping fell into the latter.

scraping muscles Gua ShaSource: Unsplash

The Gua Sha tool can be a small stone, one that you can hide in the palm of your hand, and some acupuncturist and skin doctors utilise it to boost facial blood circulation, which could help with the skin’s ability to get rid of dirt and pores that leads to acne.

Why Isn’t Everyone Scraping Muscles Then?

This millennial Chinese medicine technique does not have only benefits. With the popularisation of it in recent years, more studies about its side effects are beginning to surface.

First and foremost, scraping muscles is not recommended for every person.

If you had any surgery in the last six weeks, you should stay away from Gua Sha. Since the technique promotes the circulation of the blood, people who are taking blood thinners or have clotting disorders also must avoid this form of treatment.

Do not try scraping muscles if you have deep vein thrombosis, an infection, tumour, or wound that has not fully healed, or make use of an implant such as a pacemaker or internal defibrillator.

Doctor Christopher Stepien, a CrossFit level 1 trainer and director at a rehabilitation clinic, believes that scraping muscles is not a miracle to everyone. According to him, it works, but for specific purposes only.

According to him, scraping muscles should have a permanent result over a 17 day period. If there is no permanent pain or tightness relief after 17 days or 5 sessions of scraping muscles, you should stop the treatment immediately.

”At some point, if you neglect primary problems, your problem will cause enough pain that it stops you from working out. It might be in a few weeks, months, or even 2-3 years, but you’re guaranteed to stop working out sooner than you want to if you blindly muscle scrape yourself,” he wrote.

He also points out that scrapping yourself is not always a good idea, as you need to keep the area you want to scrape stretched and sometimes that is just not possible or easy to do. “For an individual holding an instrument to feel the grit and contort their body in a way that puts enough tension on it so the adhesion can be torn, they’d have to be a circus monkey,” doctor Christ

Edzard Ernst wrote a book in 2019 titled “Alternative Medicine – a critical assessment of 150 modalities” and drew negative conclusions regarding scraping muscles. According to him, Gua Sha has no medical benefit and it usually damages the skin.

A scientific article published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (JAAD) title “Dermatoses caused by cultural practices” went even further when analysed the ancient Chinese technique. It concluded that scraping muscles can cause dermatitis, burns, blood in the urine, or cause rare dangerous side effects such as bleeding in the brain and severe skin injuries which could only be repaired by graft surgery.

Bottom Line

The benefits of scraping muscles seems great, especially for athletes who feel tight spots or soreness after training. However, the possible side effects are quite dangerous and could hinder your ability to workout for the rest of your life.

You should seek professional medical attention before trying this traditional Chinese medicine and listen to your doctor. This article is for information purposes only.

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