Gua Sha for sports recovery: Does scraping help muscle pain?

Gua Sha is an effective way for sport recovery. We all have suffered muscle pain and sore sometime in our life. Maybe it was our school/college sports day or some community sports event. We all have endured that severe debilitating pain.

For those of us who are regular to the gym, regularly sore muscles are a way of life. Can there be some technique to relieve the pain and muscle strain quickly and effectively? Can we not enjoy our sports and games without being worried about the muscle pull and cramps?

The answer is affirmative to both the above questions. Read further to understand how sports recovery is possible, simply and effectively.

What causes muscle soreness and pain in sports?

Most of the sporting activities are quite intense, where the body performs at the peak of its physical capacity. Usually, the muscles and the body engage as a whole in performing feats, which sometimes are beyond the standard ability of the body.

As a consequence, it leads to damage of muscles, or in its strain and soreness, cramps and muscle pull. In worst cases, ligament ruptures and severe muscular injuries may physically disable the sportsperson.

The severe damage to the muscles and ligaments should be handled only by a doctor. In most of the remaining cases, it is routine and manageable. The injury occurs in the myofibrils, which are small protein contractile units of the muscles. Besides, it results in pain and the muscles sore. Another reason is the accumulation of lactic acid in the worked-out tissue.

The repetitive movement of particular muscles tires it out. It is like the shoulder and back muscles of a bowler or the thigh and calf muscles of a footballer. Similarly, working the muscles beyond its strength and capacity is a call for severe pain and injury. This kind of damage is common in weight lifting.

After the pain or sore in muscles or tissues, it takes some time to recover and that is known as the recovery time or sports recovery. In some cases, the pain may manifest 24 -72 hours later after the sport. It is quite typical in gym sports and bodybuilding sports. Such pain is known as DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness)

Gua Sha for sports recovery

Various techniques are adopted by the sports therapist or sports physiotherapist to reduce the recovery time and ensure a functional recovery. Gua Sha is also one of the simple and effective therapies that help in the improvement of the sportsperson. This ancient East Asian therapy is gaining popularity in the west and sports world of late.

Generally, it categorizes as Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM) therapy. They use a Gua Sha Tool for the treatment and it works on muscles, ligaments, fascia, fibrous tissue, nerves, and blood vessels (soft tissues).

How to do Gua Sha in sports?

It is effortless to execute Gua Sha, the co-player, or the coach can also administer it to the injured sportsperson.

  • Make the sportsperson sit or lie down comfortably. The injured muscle or the body part needs to be exposed and accessible.
  • Apply some pain balm or oil to the affected part.
  • With the Gua Sha Tool (A specialized scrapper. In the case of emergency, the blunt side of the butter knife used), scrape the painful muscle unidirectionally with long strokes. Scrape all over the muscle.
  • Keep scraping for a few minutes, till the skin turns pink or light red.
  • That is all. Wait for a few minutes

Just a few minutes of Gua Sha muscle scraping will provide relief in the pain. Also, it improves the movement and flexibility of the joint. One can see a marked improvement in the range of movement of the joints. Gua Sha works equally well in case of immediate muscular pain or the DOMS.

Does scraping help muscle pain?

Though the technique is straightforward, it works well with the pain and muscle soreness. The scraping of the muscles results in:

  • There is instant stimulation of the blood supply to the affected part. The blood flow increases almost four times the normal. The microcirculation of the blood, in the small vessels, also increases tremendously. It facilitates drainage of the lactic acid from the painful muscles. The essential nutrients and oxygen supply to the muscles increases substantially. It also unblocks all obstructions to the flow of QI (life energy), and the healthy energy equation resets.
  • Anti-oxidants like HO-1 and natural pain-relieving hormones of the body are also released.
  • Anti-inflammatory compounds are known to accumulate at the painful site.
  • The scar tissue which gets formed because of inflammation gets broken down.
  • It is loosening up of the tense fascia muscle tissue, which is an underlying body tissue that holds together lots of muscles and other tissues. It acts as a binding and balancing medium for the muscular system. Tension in the fascia is excruciating. So as the pressure in the fascia is released, it gives a sense of relief.

The recovery and the relief in pain because of Gua Sha are much more profound. Then, the relief lasts for a long time, and the restoration itself turns out to be much faster.

Gua Sha is not only an effective recovery therapy in sports, but it also improves the performance of athletes and sportsperson, if done as a part of the pre-workout / warm-up sessions.

Ample evidence suggests an improvement in the performance of sportspersons only that the Gua Sha muscle scraping of important engaging muscles gets before the sports.


Muscle fatigue and injury is an integral part of any sports, whether individual or team game. Sportspeople are always scared and wary of muscle soreness and damage, as it dampens their performance, and they go out of the field for a long time.

Not anymore, the simple and effective therapy of Gua Sha can have the sportsperson running and performing much earlier and much fitter.

The two most significant advantage of Gua Sha as a sports recovery therapy is its simplicity of application and absolutely no side or after-effects. Learn it, apply it, and enjoy a happy sporting life.