Muscle scraping is an effective technique that can help you improve your athleticism and recover faster. Here's how to do it effectively and what results you can expect to see.
What Is Muscle Scraping?
Muscle scraping, also known as Gua Sha or The Graston Technique is a mobility and recovery technique focused on promoting circulation in the muscles and deep tissue.
By "scraping" the muscles, it stimulates blood flow to the affected area which then helps reduce pain and promote healing as the blood can help stimulate the recovery.
Why You Should Consider Muscle Scraping
Muscle scraping has become a viral sensation after tons of before and afters took off on instagram and similar things happened on Tik Tok. While people claim massive myofascial, pain and even skin improvements based off muscle scraping - the details are more complicated than a 15 second viral video would have you believe.
That said there - there are legitimate reasons to consider muscle scraping. We'll dive into them here and how you can get the most out of this growing recovery trend.
What is Muscle Scraping: The Video Guide
If you're brand new to muscle scraping, MoveWell founder Joel Runyon put together a short guide here on exactly what muscle scraping is, how you do it and what you should expect. It's a quick 8 minute guide that will get you up to speed on everything you need to know.
How Do You Do Muscle Scraping?
Muscle scraping is a relatively straightforward technique. Once you have a muscle scraping tool, you simply apply it to your skin in a "scraping" fashion and you'll find it starts to release your muscles and you can start your recovery.
Step by Step Muscle Scraping Guide
- Get a tool (we share our favorite one at the end of the article)
- Start working on an area that's particularly sore or tight.
- Add a little bit of lotion or spray to the area to make it easy to scrape.
- Start working on the area.
- You should be working in the same direction - 10 to 20 seconds at a time.
- Work on the next area and return if you need to.
- Boom - you're good to go.
While your initial experience may be comfortable or painful, most people start to feel relief after about 7 days of muscle scraping - although it can be much longer or shorter as well.
The Benefits of Muscle Scraping
There's several benefits to muscle scraping. Primarily:
Muscle scraping can help with inflammation. A lot of people use this term all over the place, but there is one study showing that muscle scraping can help release an anti-inflammatory enzyme which can help with inflammation. Neat
This is probably the most common one that people reference. There's not a ton of studies on this, but this is probably the easiest one to find out anecdotally. Similar to foam roller, I find you just feel better after you do it. If you need a study to determine that, you can do some digging, but I think is both the most subjective metric and the easiest one to just kind of nod your head and be like - yeah that make sense.
Range of Motion
Working out knots, scar tissue and other fascia is going to help improve all the markers I just listed but specifically around joints can increase range of motion, which can help increase overall power output.
There's some reports of improved muscle and cardiovascular performance. While there's some evidence for the improved muscle performance - the cardio is likely due to decreased overall inflammations and getting higher performance out of your muscles.
The one study on improving cardio or HRV was all healthy male athletes - so you're probably going to need more research on that before you go all in.
Muscle Scraping Disclaimers & Warnings
Things to take note of before you start muscle scraping.
- Don't press too hard. You should be slowly working into it - not demolishing 20 years of scar tissue in one session.
- Stay hydrated. If you aren't drinking water - it's going to make your life worse. Drink water, add electrolytes - I always recommend LMNT - but you're going to the extent to buy these mobility tools - you should probably make sure you're drinking enough water to start with.
- It should hurt a little bit, not a ton. Find the sweet spot and work up to it if you need to.
- The spray is useful, not necessary, but definitely useful - especially if you're going to do a lot of work.
Can You Muscle Scrape Yourself?
Hypothetically you can muscle scrape yourself. However, it can be very difficult to reach all the right areas. This is where you either need a good friend or trained physiotherapist to help pop in and handle some of the hard-to-reach areas on your behalf. Make sure to buy them a glass or wine or something after to say thank you.
Is More Red Better When Muscle Scraping?
You've probably seen these viral photos of muscle scraping that show people incredibly red (almost bleeding) after a muscle scraping session. While that's primed for social media to take it and run with it - those are seldom optimal results. While you should expect some redness after a session - you should not be bleeding profusely. That likely means you're pressing way too hard and can actually lead to longer recovery times because of the damage cause.
If you're consistently doing this, you likely need to stop and switch to getting this done by a trained professional.
Muscle Scraping Before & After Photos
If you want to see the real difference in muscle scraping -just take a look at the before and after photos.
[before and after photos coming soon]
What Is The Best Muscle Scraper?
Right now, there are not a ton of muscle scraping devices out there.
The best known muscle scraping device is from Sidekick (linked below). While it can seem expensive at first, a muscle scraper is typically less than one physical therapy or chiropractic session - which in comparison seems like a pretty good deal!
The Side Kick Tool
After reviewing several different muscle scraping tools on the market - this is our favorite.
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Other Muscle Scraping Resources
Other resources + citations you may be interested in reading surounding muscle scraping.