Gua sha is part of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) in which a tool is used to scrape people's skin in order to produce light petechiae. Practitioners believe that gua sha releases unhealthy bodily matter from blood stasis within sore, tired, stiff or injured muscle areas to stimulate new oxygenated blood flow to the areas, thus promoting metabolic cell repair, regeneration, healing and recovery.
Gua sha is sometimes referred to as "scraping", "spooning" or "coining"
However, there is a bit more of an easier technique to do this at home, and also on yourself easily and it's known as "fascia blasting"
I first heard of fascia blasting about 3 years ago when I went to see a massage therapist. She actually did perform "Gua Sha" to release a lot of tension on my lower back and sciatic area. I expressed interest in wanting to do this at home, and she explained the idea of "fascia blasting" to me.
What Is Fascia?
To understand what fascia blasting is, we first need to understand what exactly fascia is in our bodies.
Fascia is the body's connective tissue, and it's everywhere. It runs from head-to-toe, fingertip-to-fingertip, and all throughout our insides. It provides a framework that helps support and protect individual muscle groups, organs, and the entire body as a unit. It bears a pretty strong resemblance to spiderwebs.The continuous nature of fascia helps your body parts move. Fascia attaches, encloses, and separates muscles and other internal organs, allowing these structures to slide and move through the body.
When fascia is healthy, it’s flexible enough to twist, glide, and bend. But inflammation and trauma can tighten the fascia, causing pain. Additionally, fascia contains many nerves that are sensitive to pain.
It’s also believed that fascia plays a role in cellulite, the dimpled skin texture that most often appears on the thighs, hips, and buttocks.
Cellulite happens when parts of the skin are pulled down by fibrous connective bands, which attach the skin to muscle. The skin becomes dimpled as fat cells collect between the bands.
According to a 2002 study, women with cellulite have weakness in the dermis and connective tissue, including the superficial fascia.
How does fascia blasting work?
Fascia blasting is a form of fascial manipulation. It involves a hard plastic tool called the FasciaBlaster, which was invented by Ashley Black. The tool looks like a long stick with little claws or feet attached to it.
While the FasciaBlaster is the most popular device, other companies make similar products. They’re often called cellulite blasters or fascia massage sticks.
A fascia blaster is meant to be massaged all over the body, one area at a time. This is said to loosen up the fascia.
There are several ways to do fascia blasting, but here’s how it usually works:
Warm up your body with a heating pad or hot shower. You can also lightly massage your skin with the fascia blaster.
Apply oil on the area you want to work on. I like to use magnesium oil, I have an easy DIY here
Gently rub the fascia blaster device on your skin in a scrubbing motion. Continue for 2 to 5 minutes in one area.
Repeat on other areas of your body as needed.
If you’re new to fascia blasting, you typically start with 1 minute or less to see how your body feels afterward.
It’s recommended to lightly massage your skin and drink plenty of fluids after the procedure. You can also take a cold shower to reduce any swelling. It is common to see bruises appear in the areas afterward. Don't be alarmed as this is normal and they heal up on their own.
Are there benefits to fascia blasting?
Some people who have tried fascia blasting report that it has various benefits, including:
less muscle pain
less joint pain
For me personally, performing fascia blasting is a daily ritual. I take my shower and while my skin is still hot I apply magnesium oil and get to blasting away. I find doing it regularly prevents inflammation in my right side where I tend to be prone to sciatic flare ups.
If on the off chance I do "pull" or "stretch" a muscle or even my back in an awkward way, I use my fascia blaster to provide relief and I have had some wonderful immediate results!
As for cellulite control, there was a 2019 study which involved 33 women with thigh cellulite. The participants used the FasciaBlaster on their thighs 5 days a week for 12 consecutive weeks. The researchers measured the women’s subcutaneous thigh fat, or fat under the skin, every 4 weeks. After 12 weeks, the researchers found that the women’s subcutaneous thigh fat had decreased. They also observed a reduction in the appearance of cellulite. According to the authors of this study, fascia manipulation could help cellulite by freeing the fat cells from the fibrous bands.
Are there other alternatives?
Fascia blasting isn’t the only way to stimulate the fascia. There are other ways to treat fascia-related conditions, including:
Foam rolling. Compared to fascia blasters, foam rollers are softer and gentler on the body. Foam rolling is thought to reduce cellulite and myofascial pain.
Massage. Massages are ideal for relieving general fascia-related pain, including lower back pain. Some massage therapists offer “anti-cellulite” massages, though the results are often mixed.
Cupping. Cupping when done by a licensed professional can provide lots of relief for fascia pain and inflammation.
Myofascial release therapy. Many people with myofascial pain find relief from myofascial release therapy. A massage therapist or chiropractor manually massages your fascia to relieve tightness.
Stretching. A regular stretching routine can help fascia-related conditions like plantar fasciitis, myofascial pain syndrome, and fibromyalgia.