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What is Gua Sha?


Gua Sha is a therapeutic scraping technique which is used to treat pain, when external factors (such as cold or wind) have obstructed blood flow to superficial tissues.  “Gua” means to scrape or scratch, and “sha” refers to a reddish, elevated, millet-like skin rash.  Gua Sha is a technique that intentionally raises the sha rash.  When normal finger pressure on a patient’s skin causes blanching that is slow to fade, sha is present and needs to be released. Gua Sha can be used before or after acupuncture or as a stand-alone treatment. 


What does the process of Gua Sha entail?


First, the area where Gua Sha is to be applied is lubricated with oil.  Next, the skin is pressured in downward strokes, using a round-edged instrument. These strokes are continued along one area, until the surfacing petechiae (red or purple spots) are completely raised.  If there is no sha, petechiae will not form, and the skin will only turn pink.  Gua Sha is typically performed on the back, neck, shoulders, buttocks, and/or limbs.  On occasion, Gua Sha is applied at the chest and abdomen.


What does the color of the rash indicate?


The color of the sha is both diagnostic and prognostic, as it conveys the following meaning:


Light colored sha = blood deficiency or qi deficiency
Fresh, red sha = recently contracted condition
Purple or black sha = long-term blood stasis (slow flow of blood)
Brown sha = blood may be dry (indicating a lack of oxygen and poor blood quality)
Dark red sha = may indicate heat in blood (due to inflammation, fever, or agitation)


Will I get bruises from Gua Sha?


Gua Sha does not cause bruising.  Bruising represents traumatic bleeding and injury to the tissue.  The red marks seen after Gua Sha represent old, non-circulating blood and metabolic wastes.  These waste products temporarily congest the surface tissues and muscles, while Gua Sha process promotes circulation and normalizes the metabolic processes.  Even though red marks left after Gua Sha may look painful to an outside eye, Gua Sha is a rather relaxing experience.


How long does Gua Sha treatment take?


A Gua Sha procedure takes approximately 5-15 minutes.


What is Gua Sha used to treat?


Modern research shows the petechiae produced from Gua Sha produce an anti-inflammatory, immune-protecting effect that persists for days after the treatment.  Patients usually feel immediate relief from pain, stiffness, fever, chills, coughing, wheezing, nausea, and vomiting. Gua Sha is effective as a treatment for acute and chronic internal organ disorders, including liver inflammation in hepatitis.  Gua Sha revitalizes and rejuvenates the body, as it diminishes stress, fatigue, and severe exhaustion.  Gua Sha helps to release emotions, encourages relaxation in the body, and helps to clear the mind and senses.  For some disorders, Gua Sha is all that is needed for an effective treatment; for others, it opens the path to a deeper healing process.


What are the benefits of Gua Sha?


Gua Sha has many benefits, which include:


  • restoration of normal circulation and metabolic processes

  • cleansing of the lymphatic system

  • rejuvenation of the skin

  • breakdown of adhesions and scar tissue in the muscles

  • pain relief for muscles and joints

  • ease of symptoms associated with cold and flu

  • boost of the immune system

  • effective treatment of respiratory system disorders, such as asthma and bronchitis

  • stimulation of the liver and kidneys to improve respective functions

  • balancing hormones

  • balancing bowel conditions

  • headache relief

  • assistance with depression and emotional problems

What should I do in the 48 hours following Gua Sha therapy?


In the first 48 hours after Gua Sha treatment, it is important that you:


  1. avoid any drafts or winds,

  2. sufficiently cover the area which was scraped,

  3. avoid overexertion, and

  4. drink plenty of water, to flush toxins out of your system.


Taking a hot bath and/or taking 200mg of ibuprofen can help ease soreness during this time, which is normal to experience.  The sha petechiae should fade in 2-5 days.  If the bumps are slower to fade than this, blood circulation may be poor, and treatment should be continued.


When should I avoid Gua Sha?


At times, Gua Sha should be avoided.  You should not have a Gua Sha treatment:


  • in the two weeks preceding an important social event (if you do not wish Gua Sha marks to be visible),

  • if you experience high fever, convulsions or very severe headache,

  • if you have skin rash, ulcers or blisters,

  • if you are pregnant, and/ or

  • if you have thrombocytopenia (low platelet levels).

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