Is Muscle Scraping Safe?

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When trying anything new, it’s normal for us to have some questions or concerns — safety is #1, after all. 

This is especially true when we’re talking about something that looks as painful as muscle scraping — or has social media painted one of the latest recovery trends in the health world in a negative light?

In this article, we’ll explore why muscle scraping is safe, and how you can make sure that you’re getting all the great benefits that it offers with the least amount of discomfort.

Let’s check it out!

Should You Be Worried About Muscle Scraping?

In short: no, muscle scraping is perfectly safe with nothing to worry about.

There have been some negative ideas floating around the internet about muscle scraping, with bodybuilders uploading videos of them squirming in agonizing pain while doing it.

And pain equals damage — or does it?

What Does The Science Say?

Muscle scraping basically activates your body’s healing process by causing inflammation in the body.1https://journals.humankinetics.com/view/journals/jsr/9/4/article-p304.xml

This sounds like it should be bad — inflammation is something we generally avoid — but it’s actually how your body goes into “repair mode” and fixes the damage done to your muscles through injury, training, or whatever it may be. 

Muscle scraping also creates a lot of blood flow into the tissue you’re targeting.2https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5331993/

This is a good thing — blood flow means healing, pain relief, and recovery.

It is suggested that IASTM (muscle scraping) is an effective treatment intervention for reducing pain and improving function.3https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10833196.2017.1304184?journalCode=yptr20

Generally, the painful muscle scraping videos you see on the internet are over-exaggerated or done unnecessarily — some discomfort is normal, but not usually to that extent.

How much discomfort you feel will also depend upon when type of muscle scraping you get done.

So, although it may be a bit uncomfortable, muscle scraping is safe and can be done to nearly everyone, with a few exceptions…

Who Shouldn’t Do Muscle Scraping?

There is a very short list of people that shouldn’t take part in muscle scraping, or at least take precautions:

  • Cancer — If you have cancer, you should talk to your doctor and understand the type and location of the cancer, and ask about the risks and benefits of muscle scraping in your specific situation.
  • Pregnancy — This depends on how far along you are, but it’s generally agreed that you should avoid scraping along the spine, belly, hips, and acupuncture points that could induce labour. 
  • Fractures — If you have some unhealed fractures in your bones, avoid scraping over the break site.
  • Open Wounds — Be careful around any sort of open wound and avoid scraping over top/close to it. 
  • High Blood Pressure — If you struggle with high blood pressure, make sure to talk to your doctor first before muscle scraping.
  • Blood Thinners — Since we’re creating a lot of blood flow in the target tissue, you need to be extra careful if you take blood thinners since this can create some problems.

It’s very clear who needs to be careful with muscle scraping, but if you’re not sure whether it’s safe for you, ask your doctor!

Normal Side Effects Of Muscle Scraping

Now, that redness you see people getting after a muscle scraping session is completely normal.

In fact, there’s a couple of “side effects” you can expect:

  • Redness — The high amount of blood flow you’re creating over the target tissue will cause redness or splotchiness.
  • Soreness — Although the agonizing pain that you see people go through on social media is often over the top and only for certain techniques/conditions, you can expect some soreness and discomfort during and after the session.  
  • Bruising — Similar to a deep tissue massage, muscle scraping may create some bruising on your body.

Things To Watch Out For When Muscle Scraping

Just like with anything else, too much of a good thing can be bad.

But what are the signs that muscle scraping is causing more harm than benefit?

Here’s what to watch out for:

  • Lasting Pain — If your pain lasts or becomes worse over a couple of days, it may be a sign that you caused more damage than your body can handle. This indicates that you need to lessen the intensity or the duration of your session.
  • Constant Bleeding — Muscle scraping may create some minor scrapes that bleed slightly, but it shouldn’t be something that causes a lot of bleeding or a big wound.
  • Muscle Tightness — Muscle scraping should cause the opposite of muscle tightness, so if you feel like things are getting tighter and not looser, it may be a sign that you’re going too hard or frequent with your sessions.

Check out this real muscle scraping before and after to get a better picture of what you can expect your skin to look like after treatment.

How To Muscle Scrape Safely

Now that we have a better understanding of what muscle scraping does and why it’s safe, let’s take a look at a couple of key steps to ensure that your session is the best and safest it can be.

1. Finding The Right Tool

Muscle scraping tools come in different sizes, shapes, and materials, all serving different purposes.

It’s important to find a scraper that works best for you and your goals, and is made with high quality materials so that you don’t irritate your skin.

I personally use the Sidekick Curve tool which is a super versatile yet still really affordable option.

Sidekick Curve Tool

Sidekick are widely regarded as one of the top brands when it comes to muscle scraping tools, and I’d recommend checking out their full catalog!

2. Applying Lotion

You don’t want to start scraping at your tissues with nothing to lubricate your skin — that could be as uncomfortable as it sounds!

Sidekick Muscle Scraping Lotion

Apply a small amount of lotion to your target tissue, just enough to let your tool glide smoothly. 

If you suffer from allergies, make sure to check the ingredients in the lotion to avoid anything that can cause your skin to become irritated.

3. Don’t Overdo It

Your muscles need rest from scraping, giving them time to heal up. 

It’s generally recommended that you wait about 2-3 days between scraping a certain spot, or waiting until the redness is gone.

This ensures that you don’t cause constant inflammation in the target tissue and let your body do it’s job by recovering from the scraping, otherwise it’s kind of like scratching a scab open over and over again — it’ll have a tougher time healing!

Be sure to read my full article on how to muscle scrape yourself at home!

Conclusion

Muscle scraping is a great and safe option for anyone trying to improve their recovery or muscle performance.

It’s important to look at different factors, like what kind of tool you’re using, how intense your session is, and if you have any contraindications that you should ask your doctor about first.

That being said, most people are ready to muscle scrape without any worries, and can do so without being in agonizing pain like social media leads us to believe!

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Eric Richter

I'm Eric, a physiotherapist with a Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and a Master’s degree in Physiotherapy from the University Of Manitoba. I have enjoyed the better part of a decade working with both amateur and professional athletes, weekend warriors, everyday people, and patients at hospitals to help them take control of their pain and reach their health goals.

Learn more about me...