Gua Sha and STARR Tools

I just went to my physical therapist and he turned me on to some tools made out of plastic, which were very much like metal Graston tools but much thinner. I doubted that they could hold up to the abuse of scraping my muscles, but after a treatment session, they seemed to hold up fine. They also exhibit another vibratory quality than thick stainless steel; you can feel and hear the vibrations of the adhesions and bumps within muscles much better (so thick stainless steel better than a spoon, but plastic better than either).
These are the tools of Gua Sha, whose roots are in China now in the US. In China, these tools are often made of jade, or bone, or animal horn. When I first mentioned Graston to my mother years ago, she told me that the Chinese had been doing this kind of treatment for a long time, probably longer than Graston has been around.
Gua Sha stands for “scraping sand” and that’s what you do with the tools, which is to scrape your muscles. The principles are the same as Graston although the explanations are often in Eastern concepts, using qi and energy meridians and flow. My PT person told me that he went to a seminar and the teacher who is a Westerner had also incorporated a lot of other concepts, like the concept of Anatomy Trains where muscles are linked together around the body and often treating the entire muscle chain is much better than treating just the local affected area.
Gua Sha scraping can be light up to super deep, resulting in a bruised appearance lasting many days. My PT person and I talked about this and we both feel that extensive bruising resulting from super deep scraping is bad for people in-season. I’ve often felt the results of deep Graston the next day when my muscles are too traumatized to perform well, even as they are healing.
For a more in-depth discussion on Gua Sha and its usage, pick up this excellent book from the Gua Sha Tools website. It’s packed with lots of detailed information, and crosses from Eastern and Western philosophies.
I did want to mention that I found a Graston tool substitute that was better than my spoon. A few weeks back I searched the internet looking for, perhaps, a set of used Graston tools on ebay or elsewhere. Amazingly, I could not find one instance of a used set anywhere! But after much searching, I found the STARR Tool. The website is a bit ghetto as far as design goes, and with anxiety I pressed the Buy link to purchase the STARR tool. Thankfully, it arrived a few days later!
The stainless steel STARR tool is excellent. The steel transmits the vibrations much better than a metal spoon I was using and it has multiple edges to be used on various parts of the body. Its heft really allows me to get into muscles deeper too. It also comes with a CD that goes over the basics of scraping technique.
While I admire Graston very much, I also like the fact that people are getting alternatives out there, especially for an adventurous soul such as myself who dares treat my own ailments. I can’t get into my PT person’s office all that often, and between visits, I bust out my trusty STARR tool and help my body along in its healing and recovery process.
I did buy a set of Gua Sha plastic and jade tools, so once I get them I’ll do a post on how they feel relative to my STARR tool and Graston as well.