Scrape away those aches and pains

Backaches, neck discomfort, tired eyes, headaches, fatigue and wrist pain - these are common ailments that many office workers have to contend with.

If you find yourself reaching for the painkillers too often for your liking, there is a safe and drug-free alternative to soothe these aches and pains.

Known as 'gua sha' (literally, 'to scrap sand'), this practice is a well-established component of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Known in English as 'scraping therapy', the centuries-old technique is used for health maintenance as well as to treat a variety of conditions.

In Singapore, scraping therapy is taught as part of a course on TCM which is organised by Fei Yue Family Central at Tiong Bahru Plaza. Conducted for senior citizens aged 50 and above, the course aims to empower its students with safe and effective ways to take care of their own health.

The trainer, Mdm Tay Ai Choo, is a certified TCM practitioner who holds a Masters degree from the Beijing University of Chinese Medicine, and is a volunteer TCM physician for a number of medical charitable organisations.

In this Q&A, AsiaOne Health finds out more about this traditional remedy from Mdm Tay.

Q: What is scraping ("gua sha") therapy?

Mdm Tay: Traditionally, scraping therapy uses a scraper, a copper coin or a small spoon dipped in oil or water to scrape the patient's chest, back, neck and other areas.

Nowadays, we prefer to use scrapers instead of coins or spoons, as the latter objects can damage the skin.

Scraping therapy is a safe and effective treatment for a wide range of health problems, and is also popular as part of a TCM health maintenance measure.

Q: What are scrapers?

Mdm Tay: Scrapers are tools that are used for scaping therapy. They can be made from water buffalo horn, cow bones or even jade.

Q: What is "sha"?

"Sha" often appears as reddish spots, but can also be purple or black in colour.

Mdm Tay: "Sha" (literally "sand") refers to the sandy-looking redness that appears on the skin after scraping. The appearance of "sha" signifies the body's process of eliminating "pathogen" or "toxins". The "sha" can appear as either reddish, purple or black spots, with the different colours serving as an indicator as to the condition's severity.

"Sha" usually disappears in 2-4 days and requires no treatment.

Q: How does scraping treatment work?

Mdm Tay: This treatment method is governed and guided by TCM's principles of diagnosis. It aims to restore the body's imbalance of Yin and Yang, detox the body, remove blood clots, relax muscles and promote blood circulation.

Scraping the body helps to dispel the negative "qi" (factors that cause the body to fall ill) that reside inside the body's organs, from the soft tissues all the way up to the skin level. This revitalises and stimulates the diseased organs. As a result, the "wind", "cold", "phlegm" and all other negative "qi" that block the healthy flow of the body's meridians will be dispelled.

Q: Will scraping hurt the skin?

Mdm Tay: It is perfectly normal to notice red, purple or black spots or rashes on the skin after scraping. These spots are a reflection of the body's toxic retentions. They will subside and disappear after a few days and require no treatment.

As scraping promotes and enhances blood flow and circulation, the skin will also become healthier and smoother.

Q: What are some benefits of scraping therapy?

- Alleviate pains

- Revitalise the body's proper flow of blood and energy

- Enhance the body's immunity

- Increase nourishment of the body cells

- Adjust the functions of the body's glands

- Beautify the skin and delay aging

For more information on upcoming TCM courses organised by Fei Yue Family Central, contact Caleb Xu at 6376 3560 (for courses conducted in Mandarin) or Sam How (English language classes) at 6376 3562.