For the past ten years that I have been preforming Gua Sha on clients I have tried just about every style of Gua Sha tool out there. My intent is to lay out a case for each style and let you decide which one will work best depending on use and application. Lets start by comparing Gua Sha, Graston, Coining, and Shoni-Shin.
Gua Sha was established in China approximately 220 CE. Literally translated it means “scraping sand” or in some cultures scraping wind. The function is to alleviate stagnation within the myofascia network to increase blood and nutrient flow through the body. In TCM terms this would be used to induce and balance Chi flow through specific meridians. The tools used in Gua Sha are typically jade, horn, or bone. it is important to note that no metal is used on the surface of the skin. These softer natural tools allow for going over bony processes such as the scapula vertebra of the spine. Which can be vital in getting a full release of the fascia layer.
Graston was developed by David Graston an amateur athlete who had knee pain in the 1990’s who used stainless steel tools to scrape over the skin and underlying myofascia to create blood flow and break up scar tissue. This is based off the ancient technique called Shoni Shen which I will lay out later. This is the most popular in the United States mostly due to Trademark and marketing of the tools and technique. This is not a new technique by any means but it does have its own following typically in the chiropractic and manual therapy world. The metal tools means the tissue can become very sensitive and the tools can not be used over bone in a safe manor.
Coining is the Korean technique done by using an edge of a coin to scrape and create blood flow. It was adapted from gua sha and easy access to coins as currency meant it was a very available instrument to use for bodywork.
Shoni-Shin is the Japanese style where more rustic steel tools are used very much in the same way as all other three modalities especially Graston, it focuses on Japanese acupuncture meridians and toning the “Hara” again adapted from Traditional Chinese Medicine.
When thinking about what tools I use I tend to go back to the source of it all which in this case would be Gua Sha. I like the idea of using natural style tools from the surrounding environment the more you can connect with the landscape the more in-tune you become with your body. I also like the idea of being able to go over bone and tight areas rather than only staying large muscle groups.