Why Kerokan (Body Scraping Massage) Popular in Indonesia?

Kerokan or body scraping massage or coin rubbing therapy is popular in Asian countries. But, it is not well known in other continents. This practice is not assimilated even though there are many Asians migrate to other countries.

In Vietnam and Cambodia, kerokan is called cao gio, while in China it’s called gua sha. Johanna Debora Imelda, an associate professor at the University of Indonesia wrote an interesting article about it on Kompas.com.

Kerokan and colds

Body scraping massage is dermabrasive therapy or therapy that damages the skin. It is usually done to heal cold symptoms such are nausea, appetite loss, headache and dizziness. These symptoms appear usually because cold air constrict blood vessels and limit oxygen supply in the skin. This reaction only happens on certain parts like on neck and the back of the body.

Kerokan is useful for warming the body by scraping body parts that feel cold. The scraped skin will be opened and turned red because the blood vessels underneath are broken. However, this reaction allow skin to receive more oxygen in the blood vessels.

The oxygen will help neutralizing toxic compounds in body. However, coin rubbing therapy isn’t as effective as drinking warm water or herbal drink like ginger water to warm body. But, the sense of comfort that appears after that, it is addicted. That’s why people like to do body scraping whenever they have colds.

Body scraping mainly is done on the back since people believe that there are 365 acupuncture points on back. If it is done correctly on those points, kerokan can affect nervous system. The system will command brain to produce endorphin hormones as a body reaction to endure pain and give relaxation sensation. This sense of comfort makes the person can sleep tight and feel refreshed afterward. And because he or she can sleep tight, her or his body immune system is improved automatically.

The fact is, cold symptoms can be caused by virus infection. The viruses affect digestion system, digestive system and blood circulation so they cause fever and muscle aches, as well sneezing and coughing. In medical world, these symptoms are known as influenza syndrome. There is no medicine can eradicate this virus. It will be gone after 5-7 days as body immune system improves. The patient only needs to have a good rest, drink plenty of fluid and eats nutritious foods. Fever reduces a lot of energy and fluids on our bodies.

Even though coin rubbing therapy is considered harmless, but it makes the patient feels very painful. Kerokan also can cause complications and allergy on the scraped skins. Moreover, if the coin or other tools that are being used to scrape weren’t sterilized first. The tools can become media to transmit diseases, such as Hepatitis C.

Folk belief

The reason that Indonesians like to do body scrape therapy is because there is a folk belief. In the society, there are certain values and practices that have their own logic. They become roots in how the society response to diseases. Even though from the medical’s point of view, those beliefs are not scientific, but those beliefs gave birth to certain treatments and medicines.

The coin rubbing massage practitioners and their patients have the same beliefs and culture. So, they share the same confidence that the therapy will work.

Since the fifth century, Indonesian traditional medicine has been being influenced by Chinese philosophy. Especially about the balance of heat (yang) and cold (yin). The balance will affect the relationship between spiritual and physical elements of human bodies with the nature. When someone is sick, then his or her body is not in balance and harmony.

This logic is what Indonesian society believe about the body scraping massage. Kerokan is believed as a practice that can remove cold air, which is the cause of the imbalance from the patient’s body. They do it by scraping skins until they feel hot. The red marks are considered the sign that the cold air have left the body. Sweating and farting are considered the signs as well.

According to the science, these kinds of beliefs are irrational.

Psychotherapy effect

This traditional treatment is also have a psycho-social and psychotherapy effects. Those effects make certain people feel addicted to the therapy.

People need others to do the massage because it is done on the back. It’s believed that masseurs can do that therapy better and more effective. But, all people can do this. Just as many traditional medicine, kerokan is passed down to family members from generation to generation especially for female. Particularly for mothers who are considered responsible for the family members’ health. During the therapy, there are interaction and communication where the patients share their stories, sometimes even some personal stories such as family problems, economic problems, politics, gossip and many more. These psychotherapy effects make people feel addicted to the therapy. And that’s why they do it again and again.

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