My arm was a flaming inferno of agony! I knew I couldn’t hang on much longer and the tears were gathering like the edge of a spring storm just waiting to cascade down. Biting my lip for distraction, I endured the dying moments of my healing experience willing it to be over so I could head downstairs for a much anticipated facial complete with cupping and a whole body vibrator rub down for the grand finale. What on earth you ask??
I was in China to see a friend a part of the plan was a schedule of healing massages, foot rubs, facials, yoga and the like – kind of a pilgrimage to the far east combing some visiting, a bit of English teaching, a bit of touring and hopefully experiencing a few traditional Chinese healing techniques. (my version of a mini eat pray love thing) A week into the visit I started to experience shall we say an uncomfortable intestinal situation. My friend’s yoga teacher confidently assured me that I needed to have “scratching” and her mother was a healer and would fix me up “no problem”.
Scratching as it turns out is also known as Gua Sha, a modality said to treat any chronic disorder involving pain. It is similar to reflexology in that different zones of the hand and foot are connected to the health and function of another region of the body. Supposedly it stimulates blood flow and unblocks meridians. Well as it turns out my whole arm is related to my digestive system. Who knew?
What the practitioner does is take an innocent looking buffalo horn which has been smoothed and rounded at one end kind of like a shoe horn and then they start scraping away in short downward strokes similar to digging in the dirt with a hand trowel. My healer was a dainty, delicate lady of advanced years with no outward hint of sadistic indications. (looks can be deceiving!)
Scrape, scrape, scrape, right away it hurt and I realized this woman had one heck of an arm. As she worked on down my arm turned an alarming fiery red color, became very hot and deep inside the veins began throbbing. As she went deeper and deeper the pain became more intense and I wanted to scream out loud. Fighting back the tears I glanced over at my friend who couldn’t or wouldn’t meet my eye. Her turn was next.
The pale Caucasian skin color I went in with was no longer visible and women from other rooms in the building were dropping by to have a look at the lao wai whose arm was turning a raging scarlet color. They would tsk tsk tsk, shake their heads sympathetically and walk away whispering to each other. Apparently, the darker the color the bigger the problem. Mercifully it finally came to an end. The healer lady smiled sweetly, handed me a glass of water and sold me twenty-five dollars worth of Amway products to help with my situation. Did I mention the healing took place in the Amway distribution center?
Waking the next day I noticed my arm was badly bruised from my shoulder to my wrist and “the problem” wasn’t even an arm hair better. Already the focus of stares from the locals, this escalated along without right pointing after they noticed my arm. I stopped wearing sleeveless tops.
Since then I discovered this is a common healing technique done regularly in many Chinese homes. The books say it should be done with a light touch and if it hurts at all the practitioner should be told and they are to adjust accordingly. Not speaking Chinese I was unable to communicate my level of agony… In retrospect I should have just started crying and wailing ow ow ow and hopefully the universal language would have sent my message loud and clear.
While in China I had many wonderful body treatments, all for a very low cost. None, however were quite as interesting as “The Scratching”