Dermal Scraping- Theory


"Dermal Scraping Therapy" was randomly mentioned in some classic clinical records approximately three thousand years ago, and became more popular during the "Ching" dynasty. This therapy was not commonly practiced in hospitals and clinics but it was seen in the countryside and villages where medical facilities were not provided. This healing art was gradually forgotten and almost vanished. Housewives and grandmothers practiced it at home or neighborhood commune areas during times of poor economy in China and Hong Kong 60 years ago. Nowadays, due to the availability of Western, Traditional Chinese and other medical treatment, acupuncturists and Chinese massage practitioners use it as a supplementary form of therapy.


Scraped Site with Board


Tongue Depressor used to apply pressure
(Tongue Depressor used to apply pressure)


Scraped Sites

"Scraping Sand" was the original name described in clinical records of Traditional Chinese Medicine. "Sand" referred to the red-blush spots that appeared after the treatment and it also referred to certain symptoms that can be treated by "scraping sand." The special symptoms are called "Sand diseases/symptoms." The main complaints/discomforts from these symptoms are swelling, bloating, aching-like feelings, sensations such as headaches with an expanding sensation, congestion of the chest during common colds, and bloating during indigestion. This therapy can help to reduce these symptoms and gradually lead to recovery. Of course, there is no exact diagnosis or laboratory investigation done by TCM practitioners and physicians. There are possibilities that relief of the symptoms merely covers up underlying problems. Therefore, it is advisable to consult your doctor regarding those symptoms that may be subsided by using the dermal scraping therapy.

Contraindications (Unsuitable to treat)

Theory of Dermal Scraping Therapy

Anatomy of the Integumentary system
The skin consists of three layers:


Epidermis: Stratified Squamous Epithelium. 30-50 cell layers thick or 0.007-0.12mm

  • Stratum Corneum - cornified dead cells
  • Stratum Lucidum - thin, clear layer found on palms and soles
  • Stratum Granulosum - fibers of keratin
  • Stratum Spinosum - several layers of cells
  • Stratum Germinativum - mitosis; pigment producing malanocytes

Dermis (Corium): This layer is collagenous, elastic, supportive, gives skin tone, and lines of tension on skin surface; decreasing amount of elastic fiber is associated with aging. It is also highly vascular and glandular, many nerve endings and hair follicles, motor impulses transmitted from the central nervous system to the skin by autonomic nerve fibers. Sensory receptors respond to various tactile, pressure, temperature, and ticklish or painful sensations. Dermal blood vessels transport nutrients, oxygen, chemicals and white blood cells to the cellular structures. They also regulate the body's temperature.

  • Papillary Layer - upper layer of the dermis with papillae projections
  • Reticular Layer - has tough, flexible mesh-like fibers

Hypodermis (subcutaneous layer): The deepest layer, it is composed of loose fibrous connective tissue and adipose cells interlaced with blood vessels. Females have an approximately 8% thicker hypodermis layer than males. This layer stores lipids, insulates and cushions the body, and regulates temperature.

The Healing of an Injured Blood Vessel

When a blood vessel is injured, your body's protective systems are activated to deal with the emergency situation; bleeding is considered as a matter of emergency. A blood clot is formed to plug the leaking site. The area surrounding the injured vessel is scattered with dead blood cells and debris, and the body's healing mechanisms will move in to clear the accident field, allowing proper circulation to ensue. The mechanism of clearing is done by phagocytes (i.e. white blood cells), which migrate into the wounded area and ingest dead cells, damaged tissues, germs and foreign debris. Recovery is expected within 5-7 days if there are no other complications.

If this mechanism is not carried out completely, the left over materials will remain at the injury site and they will form areas of blockage or congestion, which will cause poor circulation of blood and lymphatic drainage. TCM practitioners refer to this state as chronic inflammation or "uncleared dead blood". These local inflammation sites could appear underneath the skin as sand-like, hardened, long strips of wiry, tender and swollen tissue that are painful on percussion and unusually constantly achy. These conditions are commonly seen on people suffering from Motor Vehicle Accidents (whiplash), traumatic injuries and physical damage during sport performance. The soft tissue inflammation (chronic) could happen secondarily to stress and internal organ malfunctions without evidence of physical trauma. When we understand the anatomy, functions and traumatic changes inside the three main layers of skin - epidermis, dermis and hypodermis, this information provides us with an idea about the organ. Our bodies have the function of self-healing, but why are some injuries not taken care of by this system?

A lot of people suffer from chronic physical conditions after traumatic injuries. They experience different degrees of pain, aches, swelling, tenderness and numbness. Apparently the body cannot completely fulfill the mission because, due to certain reasons, the healing system is not activated. The body may be too weak to look after the injured site, the stimulation-response communication process is disturbed, injury is beyond repair, or the system may have more urgent situations to deal with. The main reason is that the normal pathways or routes are totally or partially blocked by the old debris from the injury. For thousands of years, the Chinese Classic medical books wrote of the pain theory - "Blockage causes Pain." "Unblocking the obstructions" also known as "Freeing the blocked pathways" is the healing technique used to deal with a lot of chronic soft tissue inflammatory conditions such as whiplash, tennis elbow and lower back pain. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there are several methods employed to do the job, for example, Herbal intervention, Acupuncture, Cupping, Dermal Scraping, Moxibustion and Deep massage, and Acupressure.

(Cupping: glass cups suctioned onto the back)

Commonly used stick of moxa
(Moxibustion: a commonly used stick-form of moxa.)

Blunt object
(Acupressure: a smooth blunt tool may be used for pressure application.)

Dermal Scraping Therapy is simple, effective and economical. When the body is suffering from certain physical discomforts, different symptoms will appear, such as headaches, joint pain, muscle aches and bloating. These discomforts have a typical objective sensation - a feeling of puffiness, swelling, or expansion from the inside outward. Usually Dermal Scraping Therapy is suitable in treating these symptoms. Dermal Scraping Therapy is performed by using some tools such as a scraping board (5cm x 8cm), a ceramic spoon, a silver coin or a piece of a tongue depressor. Scrape the skin area 20-30 times until it becomes red; red-blush spots will appear after the treatment. The skin will go back to its normal state after a few days. Ordinary oil or medicated oils can be applied onto the skin before scraping. The scraped areas are chosen according to the Meridian Pathway System, Acupuncture points and affected sites.