For centuries, the Chinese Gua sha technique has been used to promote healing by scraping muscle tissue to stimulate blood flow, stretch and relax muscles, increase range of motion and reduce pain. You may also have heard it referred to as the Graston technique, named after David Graston who popularized this treatment in the U.S. in the 1990s, or as “muscle scraping”, which describes the way the massage tools — which can be stainless steel, jade, quartz or bone — are used, or as myofascial release.
I started using Gua sha, to help with the tightness that I’m experiencing as my broken ankle heals. I have very tight spots in my calf and on the outside of my knee. Using a metal, bone or stone tool, you scrape across the afflicted area to stretch and relax muscle tissues. Scrape only in one direction, rather than back and forth, and don’t use it over bony areas.
Once I realized that it helped me, I decided to try it on Zelda. I’ve incorporated it into my grooming routine and she seems to love it. I get lots of releases from it — she yawns, licks and chews. I can find tight spots during our sessions (since I’m stiff and sore now that I’m riding again, I can only imagine that she is, too).
The tool I like is a small stainless steel one from Stickon. For barn work, I think stainless steel is the best choice because it is easy to keep clean. I have a slightly larger one that I’m going to try, but for $15 this is both effective and comfortable; it fits nicely in my hand. Using this tool allows me to give her a deeper massage without without tiring my hands. I’ve always been a fan of equine massage, but especially in the winter, I’m not able to do as much (I have Raynaud’s syndrome, which means I’m affected by cold), so this gives me the chance to keep doing body work.
Have you ever tried muscle scraping tools or massage tools? What are you favorite ones?