The realms of healthcare and sports medicine are transitioning to incorporate innovative (and ancient) techniques to address any soft tissue issues - since pain is a universal response to something in your body gone wrong! More thought is now being given to the condition of our fascia and muscles than ever before.
Maybe you’ve heard of muscle scraping or you might be scratching your head thinking what on EARTH is muscle scraping? OR maybe you have witnessed influencers use the Gua Sha scraping tool somewhere on social media. Let’s dive into this interesting topic and see if it’s something you’d like to try!
First, What is Muscle Scraping Good For?
Muscle scraping therapy, also known as myofascial scraping or instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) came from Gua Sha. Gua Sha is rooted in China and Southeast Asia. It is a very traditional healing and recovery therapy known for its numerous benefits. Some of these include:
- Pain relief
- Reduction in inflammation
- Increased circulation
- Evokes the skin’s immune response 
- Improving flexibility
- Less muscle tension
- Quick recovery
Physical conditions that muscle scraping can help with:
- Lower back pain
- Myofascial restrictions
- Plantar fasciitis
- Neck Pain
- Muscle strains
- Trigger finger
- IT Band Syndrome and more! 
Muscle Scraping for Recovery
IASTM is often used by athletes and performed by a trained practitioner using a specific instrument to carry out the scraping motion.
As noted by the Arizona Chiropractic & Holistic Health Center, most clients use scraping “to treat muscle injuries, connective tissue injuries, loosen adhered scar tissue, and promote healing.” 
Like with therapeutic massage, the improved circulation or blood flow promotes oxygen and nutrient delivery to the damaged tissue, thus promoting healing and reducing inflammation in the long run.
The manipulation of soft tissue (fascia) helps to break down any scar tissue that has formed (usually from injury or overload) to assist with restoring tissue and function.
After several sessions of good muscle scraping, the combination of factors such as better range of motion, pain relief, and less muscle tension can all help with recovery.
How Does Fascia Play a Role?
If you’re not yet familiar with fascia, it is a connective tissue that wraps around muscles, organs, bones, and other parts of the body. It is web-like and essentially flexible in nature as it provides support and structural integrity.
Depending on factors such as body mechanics and physical activity, our fascia can become restricted and feel tight - ultimately leading to injury and pain. Muscle scraping “induces micro-trauma which activates an inflammatory response so that healing can start.” 
Side Effects of Muscle Scraping
Although mild and short-term, some common side effects of muscle scraping include the following:
- Spontaneous release of connective tissue
When to be Cautious
Just like with most types of massage or therapy, even if it is non-invasive, consult with your doctor before trying it out, especially if you have a current health condition. Some conditions that may not agree with muscle scraping include (but are not limited to):
- Open wounds
- Unhealed fracture and more 
What to Expect at a Muscle Scraping Session
If you’ve made an appointment for IASTM, you’ll be checked out by the practitioner first. This includes a general assessment such as health history, medications, vital signs, etc.
When going to your appointment, make sure to wear loose or stretchy clothing that will make it easier for your practitioner to reach the areas to be scraped.
A specific type of IASTM called the Graston Technique is used to manage chronic pain and soft tissue injuries. Specialized stainless steel muscle scraping tools are used to do deep tissue massage, and mobilize soft tissue (muscles, ligaments, and tendons). This technique is often used on muscle strains, fascial restrictions, and tendonitis.
For a Graston Technique procedure, you may be lying down or sitting. Muscle scraping tools will be used for approximately 1 minute at a time in each area. While it’s normal to feel sore or some discomfort, let your practitioner know if you become too uncomfortable.
As noted earlier in this post, redness and bruising may occur afterward. A cold compress may be applied if needed. Don’t worry, a good muscle scraping won’t render you useless for the rest of the day. If the muscle soreness is not too unbearable, you should be able to carry about your daily activities right after your appointment!
A Brief History of Muscle Scraping
Long story short, IASTM is considered to be an adaptation of Gua Sha. Many people are seen now using a Gua Sha scraping tool on the face where the original goal of this therapy was to get rid of any stagnant blood flow.
Gua Sha has been used in China for thousands of years where a smooth-edged tool is used to scrape and improve blood flow. References show that it was also called coin rubbing and other places also used a buffalo horn for scraping. Sha is “loosely translated as stagnant blood. Gua Sha roughly translates into English as ‘dredging meridian stagnation’”. 
Scraping was also used by athletes in ancient Greece, using olive oil as a lubricant and then scraping it off - although the motive here was more for cleanliness and pleasure.
Fast forward to the 1990s, David Graston created the Graston Technique, which uses metal tools to manipulate the soft tissue and facilitate range of motion. A Graston Technique (GT) practitioner is trained to find soft tissue adhesions or restrictions that can impede your performance or cause further injury.
My Experience with Muscle Scraping (More Like Fascia Blasting)
While I haven’t had a professional appointment for muscle scraping, I did have some time with my own fascia massage tool - which I would consider to be a variation of muscle scraping that you can do at home. While the tool itself is more like a claw (and more blunt at the ends compared to the typical muscle scraping tool), the fact that it is meant to work with your fascia, stimulate circulation, and possibly induce myofascial release is the common trait here.
I got into it because the massaging sensation is very relaxing and also there has been evidence that it can help fight cellulite. It’s a win-win situation I contemplated upon my well-thought-out purchase. The tool itself was used more for deep tissue massage since it saved me from having to put much pressure on my fingers - helping with energy use and possibly lowering the risk of injury.
Overall, I felt more limber and loose on the lower body muscles I’ve used it for! Unfortunately, my time with my fascia tool was short-lived due to it breaking in half and I have yet to replace it.
Muscle Scraping Conclusion
Hopefully, this post has shed some light on muscle scraping and why it has gained popularity. Amidst the amazing growth of traditional or holistic (non-medicinal) therapies, athletes and non-athletes alike can benefit from a good muscle scraping therapy. Remember to keep in mind that a trained practitioner should perform your scraping to make sure it is done effectively and safely. All the multiple benefits of this therapy are like a fast pass to recovery!
To have a non-invasive technique available that optimizes range of motion and overall function while helping you heal and relax seems like something worth trying. Although I have yet to try it myself, I wouldn’t hesitate if given the opportunity! While waiting for your next muscle scraping appointment, I’d recommend using a combination of the QL Claw and our CBD Salve to help save you from any aches and pains you may have.
 Chu, E., Wong, A.Y.L, Sim, P., Kruger, F. Exploring scraping therapy: contemporary views on an ancient healing - a review. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, 2021.