Gua Sha is a therapeutic technique used to resolve musculoskeletal pain and stiffness by increasing the movement of blood and lymph. “Gua” is translated as “to scrape” and “Sha” refers to redness. This technique involves moving a round edged tool across the surface of the skin with fast, firm pressure. After this procedure is performed, an area of raised, red petechiae will appear on the skin’s surface. The redness should fade after 2-3 days. Gua Sha has also traditionally been used as a treatment to reduce fever, treat fatigue caused by exposure to heat, treat muscle and tendon injuries, improve circulation, treat headaches, stiffness, pain and immobility, as well as digestive disorders due
Gua Sha is used whenever a patient has pain whether associated with an 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, congestion of Qi
Sha is raised primarily at the Yang surface of the body: the back, neck, shoulders, buttocks,
and limbs. On occasion, Gua Sha is applied at the chest and abdomen.
The area to be Gua Sha-ed is lubricated with oil. The skin is then rubbed with a round-edged instrument in downward strokes. One area is stroked until the petechiae that surface are completely raised. If there is no blood stasis the petechiae will not form and the skin will only turn pink.
A soupspoon, coin, jade or slice of water buffalo horn is used in Asia.
The color of the Sha is both diagnostic and prognostic. Very light colored Sha can indicate deficiency of blood. If the Sha is fresh red, it is of recent penetration. If the Sha is purple or black, the blood stasis is long-standing. If brown, the blood may be dry. Dark red Sha can indicate heat.
The Sha petechiae should fade in 2-4 days. If it is slower to fade, indicating poor blood circulation, it will be decided whether it is deficiency of blood, Qi or Yang, a deeper stagnation
or organ deficiency at the root.
In most cases the patient feels an immediate shift in their condition particularly in their pain or sense of constraint. Gua Sha moves stuck Qi and blood, releases the exterior mimicking sweating, and moves fluids. In a modern medical construct these fluids contain metabolic waste and toxins that congested the surface tissues and muscles. Gua Sha promotes circulation and normalizes metabolic processes, releasing toxins. It is a valuable treatment for both external and internal pain, and facilitates the resolution of both acute and chronic disorders.
Gua Sha is a completely safe technique, but it is serious medicine. Knowing when to use it
and what to expect from treatment is as important as good technique. People who live in chronic pain often erect emotional defenses to cope with it or can feel completely hopelessness. Having
that pain ‘touched’ and relieved can be unsettling, even shocking. It is good to be moderate in activity after treatment, even rest. I have always told my patients after treatment: no drugs, alcohol, sex, fasting, feasting or hard labor, including working out, for the rest of the day.
In other words, relaxation.