Why ‘hands off’ massage can really have your senses working overtime

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The Murnaghan Clinic, which is based in Dublin but runs clinics locally at the David Wood Ulster Grand Prix House in Dundrod and on the Ormeau Road in Belfast, pride themselves on offering bespoke treatments for clients, tapping into many aspects of ancient Chinese medicine to help people with a wide range of conditions.

One of the lesser known treatments on offer at the clinic is ‘Gua Sha’, which is also known as ‘scraping’ and is a form of gentle massage using tools rather than hands.

Gua sha or scraping or fascia blending, as it is now being sold as, is a very ancient part of the Chinese Medicine method of physiotherapy.

“Traditionally it was done with a variety of spoons and curved objects that felt good on the skin,” explained Dr Murnaghan. “I myself as a TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) doctor have used Chinese soup spoons for over 20 years to achieve amazing results regarding stubborn pain areas for patients that didn’t respond to hand techniques. So hand massage is not always the right tool.

“The more in depth communication to the many layers of tissue a person has, requires specific shapes, rhythms, depths, strokes and actions.

‘‘The massage of TCM is called Tui Na which means ‘push grab’. This is because these two methods are considered a universally ‘good start’ for tissue to recover.

“The push spreads out the toxins and the grab lifted the layers, like lifting blankets on a bed to re-set them without folds. So imagine the layers of tissue being lifted and separated allowing toxins to flow away and be removed via your lymph capillaries, back to the vessels, then out of the body.”

Gua sha is carried out expertly at The Murnaghan clinic by Dr Murnaghan and his team.

“It achieves results where other methods fail because sometimes Gua Sha is the only solution,” continued Dr Murnaghan.

“It is often required to expel heat and inflammation from an area. It is often used to restore health areas effected by wind. Invasion of wind, a TCM condition, is where we get the old saying, to catch a draught, it can cause stiff necks and frozen shoulders. It has been known to help fibromyalgia, stubborn strain and chronic weakness.”

Gua Sha is a gentle powerful method of expertly selected moves, using smooth shaped tools from buffalo horn to polished smooth shell.

Specific shapes are selected to maximise the release of pain out of the tissues of the skin and muscles at various depths. The therapist checks for suitability via testing and monitoring throughout the treatment, assuring effective tool selection.

Different curves are for different shaped muscles or different shapes of strain. As individual as clouds, bruises require understanding, their shape is always unique, and applying the right tool to gently ripple the majority of it away in an easy gentle technique, detailed to your unique needs, is an experienced earned skill.

“Results aren’t just because of the tools, but more so from the knowledge of how to apply them,” explained Dr Murnaghan.

“With 25 years of clinical experience and thousands of years of detailed manuscripts on how to do it correctly, the dedicated practitioners express competence through thorough diagnosis, focussed application and that feeling of knowing its feeling better and different than anything they’ve had before.

“You’ll know they’re really good by how really good you’ll feel after treatment.

“One of the most important things to consider as a therapist using Gua Sha is the experience of the therapist. The skin is full of neurological nerve endings and pressure sensors as well as sweat, sting, itch, heat, cold and pain nerves,’’ said Dr Murnaghan.,

“It is highly involved with emotional states and needs to be understood. This is why we have different tools and techniques.

“Gua Sha done effectively is like talking to the skin in motions and sweeps that are like a language. The right language around a situation makes all the difference between resolution, confusion and conflict.

“As does the proper application of Gua Sha via the therapist. When done expertly it feels good and it really makes ‘sense’ in the true understanding of the phrase,” he added.