Addressing Perimenopause Symptoms Using Gua Sha Therapy

According to a new study, a Chinese medicine treatment that makes use of a smooth-edged device to rub or scrape certain parts of the body can help alleviate bothersome symptoms in women in the years leading up to menopause.

Perimenopause is the phase of a woman’s life in which her estrogen levels change and begin waning but her menstrual periods continue. These changes can start 8 to 10 years before menopause. At this point in time, and for the next few years after her menstrual cycle ceases, the woman may experience insomnia, hot flashes, mood swings, tiredness, pains and aches, forgetfulness, and pains, vaginal dryness and dyspareunia or pain during sex.

According to the journal Menopause, around three quarters to 92% of women of women experiencing perimenopause exhibit a few or more of these symptoms, and about 40% consider these symptoms bothersome enough to seek clinical help.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Gua sha therapy is a commonly used treatment that’s alleged to work due to its antinflammatory benefits and helps increase blood flow to the surface of the skin.

In Nanjing, China, in the Jiangsu Province Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine, gua sha therapy has been applied on a wide scale in the clinical practices of this hospital.

Past research has shown that gua sha can treat or prevent a number of frequently-occurring and common illnesses, such as colds, chronic/acute pain, fever, flu, asthma heatstroke, and emphysema.

A study conducted in the First Affiliated Hospital of Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine featured treatment of 80 women all manifesting perimenopause symptoms. Researchers randomly designated these women into two groups.

One group was provided with standard care which entailed drinking a traditional Chinese herbal liquid named Chingxin Zishen Tang, two times a day plus weekly 15-minute Gua sha therapy each week in which a practitioner lubricated the patient’s body with massage oil and then used the horn of a buffalo to scrape the patients’ upper and lower limbs and back for 8 weeks to activate acupuncture points. The other group was treated with only standard care.

According to the researchers, the scraping caused purple or reddish marks on the skin that often dissipated within a week.

Eight weeks after, scores on a questionnaire related to menopause-specific quality of life showed improvement in both groups but significantly better in the group treated with standard care plus gua sha therapy. This group also exhibited a meaningful decrease in insomnia, sweating and hot flashes, melancholia, nervousness, headache and fatigue compared to the standard care only group.

According to Dr. Francesco Cardini, Italian researcher and not part of the aforementioned study’s research team, clinical studies on this subject are few and unimpressive.

In an interview by Reuters Health, Cardini said “Gua sha treatment and other traditional therapies like it, that generates superficial transitory lesions in the skin, may not be considered by women who are not familiar with Chinese culture.”

Perimenopausal symptom treatment using gua sha therapy was tolerated well by the patient’s in the study, according to one of the study’s researchers, Pei-bei Duan. No substantial negative events happened and only a couple of mild negative effects were observed. Both have been proven to be unassociated with Gua sha treatment. These two events had mild dizziness; one was from extreme nervousness at the initial treatment and the other was due to hypoglycemia since the patient did not eat breakfast.”

Pei-bei Duan said that Gua sha therapy’s longstanding benefits are still unknown. In theory, this therapy is available to women in China, but only at major hospitals of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Duan said, “Women living in poor rural areas need to travel far and wide to the cities to receive the therapy which is not practical.”

In America, Gwyneth Paltrow and other celebrities promote gua sha therapy, which is offered by certain qualified massage therapists spread across the country.

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