What is Gua Sha?
Gua Sha is a traditional ancient Chinese healing technique that dates back over two thousand years. Gua means to scrape or rub. Sha is a “reddish, elevated, millet-like rash” (aka petechiae). Sha is the term used to describe blood stagnation in the subcutaneous tissue before and after it is raised as petechiae. Gua Sha is pressing and stroking the skin repeatedly. It creates suction on the skin that pulls stagnant intercellular fluid to the surface, removing toxic debris, and replacing it with fresh oxygenated, nutrient rich fluid, which in turn accelerates regeneration and revitalizes the region.
Pain is caused by obstruction in the flow of Qi (energy) or blood. Obstruction causes problems. Moving Qi or blood removes obstruction, reestablishing the normal free flow and, thus, resolving pain. Or, in simple terms, when substances become stuck, function is slowed and there is often pain: Gua Sha moves what is stuck and resolves pain.
For those who have not had any experience with Gua Sha, you may think that it sounds bad. Well, it does sound bad and it looks bad, too! However, the appearance of petechiae actually detoxifies and cleanses the body.
Do you suffer from chronic pain? Excess systemic toxicity? Poor circulation? Lymphatic congestion? Inflammation? Fatigue? Infections? Physical or emotional stress? If so, then you will greatly benefit from the Gua Sha treatment.
Are Gua Sha treatments painful?
Gua Sha treatments are not painful though it may be slightly uncomfortable as the sha is near complete expression. As the body is scraped it pushes a build-up of fluid ahead of it, and after it passes, it leaves an indention or vacuum behind, which draws toxic fluid out to the surface of the skin from deep within the tissue. The toxic fluid (Sha), floods to the surface and can be seen in small red, deep purple or green pools of blood, it is also often hot as the toxic heat is removed. Red spots are an indication that toxins are being released. Where there is deep purple, the blood is old and extremely stagnant. A dark green discoloration is a sign that stagnant blood and toxic Qi are being released from the system.
The transitory therapeutic petechiae and ecchymosis of Gua Sha do not signify bruising. Bruising represents damage to an area of tissue from a blow or shear force. With Gua Sha, blood cells are removed from the capillary bed of surface tissue without damage to the capillaries themselves. The sha that emerges as petechiae then immediately changes to ecchymosis and then begins to fade. These changes represent function within the circulatory bed, the movement and removal of the stagnant blood which results in anti-inflammatory and immune stimulation. For most clients, the sha completely fades in 2 to 4 days, whereas the damage to tissue related to bruising takes longer to resolve.
What kind of tool is used?
I use a round, smooth-edged jade tool.
When is Gua Sha used?
Gua Sha is used whenever a patient has pain in any acute or chronic disorder. There may be aching, tenderness and/or a knotty feeling in the muscles. Palpation reveals sha when normal finger pressure on a patient's skin causes blanching that is slow to fade. In addition to resolving musculoskeletal pain, Gua Sha is used to treat as well as prevent common cold, flu, bronchitis, asthma, as well as any chronic disorder involving pain or inflammation. Many times, Gua Sha provides immediate relief, comfort and warmth and clients will say they don’t care how it looks.
Where is Gua Sha applied?
Gua Sha can be done almost anywhere on the body but is typically applied at the back, neck, shoulders, chest, abdomen, buttocks and limbs.
How fast will the petechiae fade?
The Sha petechiae should fade in 2-4 days. If it is slower to fade, it indicates poor blood circulation.
What are the benefits of Gua Sha?
In most cases the patient feels an immediate relief in their condition, particularly in their pain and range of motion. Clients will say they don’t care how it looks after the treatment.
Modern research has confirmed Gua Sha reduces pain and inflammation, while stimulating an immune protective response that can persist for days following treatment.
Is Gua Sha safe?
Gua Sha is a completely safe technique. Knowing when to use it and what to expect from treatment is as important as good technique.
I encourage you to drink lots of water after your Gua Sha session and for several days after. Do not take a hot shower immediately after a session. Avoid exposure to the sun and wind until the sha is gone. Keep the area covered. The pain may be gone but the area may still be weak and unstable. Avoid excessive cold, sour, or salty food or fluid. Cold causes contraction, which makes pain worse. Sour is the flavor of the Liver, which owns the nerves. Sour favors increase pain and nervousness. Salty foods tend to increase swelling and pain.
Make sure after a treatment you allow your body to rest in order to get the full detox benefits. This means no drugs, alcohol, fasting, feasting, hard labor, or strenuous exercise for the rest of the day. In other words: chill out, mellow mode, relax. Let the treatment work.