Gua sha has some similarities to traditional acupuncture but its mechanism is quite different, and it’s used most often to combat pain or inflammation.
·October 7th, 2021
Gua sha uses a smooth massaging tool to apply firm pressure to the skin, targeting acupuncture points to stimulate circulation and move stagnant qi through the body.
Gua sha can be performed on its own or in conjunction with other forms of acupuncture.
Gua sha can be useful for a range of symptoms and conditions: neck and back pain, perimenopause, headache, and more.
To have your questions answered or seek out treatment, find a gua sha practitioner near you with Sound Cycle’s provider search.
While gua sha has recently been gaining traction among aestheticians, health enthusiasts, and patients of Traditional Chinese Medicine alike, for many it may be a less familiar or even intimidating treatment. Gua sha has some similarities to traditional acupuncture in that it often targets acupuncture points or meridians, but its mechanism is quite different, and it’s used most often to combat pain or inflammation.
Rather than tiny needles, a gua massager uses firm pressure applied to the surface of the skin to stimulate a reaction. Gua sha treatments can be offered individually or in conjunction with other forms of acupuncture, and may be administered in a single visit or over a series. Gua massage tools are also sold for at home use, but it’s important to learn how to properly administer a gua sha massage technique before trying it for yourself.
Read on to learn more about this targeted, increasingly popular treatment.
What is gua sha?
Gua sha is a traditional East Asian healing technique which involves applying pressure to a smooth-edged tool while scraping or pushing it across a patient’s skin, often along acupuncture points or meridians. While it’s typically conducted by an acupuncturist, other forms of Chinese medicine practitioners may also offer gua sha.
Acupuncturists and Chinese medicine practitioners may also explain that the gua massage tool is targeting areas of stagnant chi, or bodily energy, which may be a source of inflammation or pain. After undergoing a gua sha treatment, your skin may appear red, bruised, or have small red dots known as petechiae. These should generally go away within a few days. Gua sha should not break the skin.
What symptoms and conditions can gua sha treat?
Much of the focus of research on gua sha treatments has been around orthopedic issues, primarily pain in different regions of the body. While some studies have evaluated other conditions or symptoms, the research is relatively nascent or limited.
Chronic neck pain: Among patients with chronic pain, a single gua sha brought about significant improvements in pain relief, pain with movement, and quality of life one week after treatment, as compared to a heating pad.
Lower back pain: Treatments were effective in reducing lower back pain among those who experienced chronic lower back issues.
Perimenopausal symptoms: Perimenopause, or the years leading up to and around menopause, can bring about many changes in a woman’s body. These symptoms can include hot flashes, sweating, insomnia, burning in the fingers, change in mood, fatigue, and headache. Multiple studies have demonstrated that gua sha is an effective treatment for many of the perimenopause-associated symptoms and a contributor to improved quality of life.
Muscle recovery: In addition to reducing pain levels, gua sha has been shown to speed up recovery from workout-induced muscle fatigue.
Headache: In one study, gua sha was identified as an effective tool to combat chronic migraine headaches.
Breast engorgement: Among those who are breastfeeding, engorgement is a common issue that can bring about significant discomfort. Limited solutions exist to combat the symptoms of engorgement. Gua sha has been shown to be one possible mechanism for reducing pain and discomfort among postpartum individuals experiencing engorgement.
Diabetic neuropathy: Diabetic neuropathy affects up to 50% of people with diabetes, bringing nerve damage that can affect the hands and feet in particular. Pain and numbness, common symptoms, were shown in one study to be aided by gua sha.
Gua sha is also sometimes used by skin care professionals as part of a facial rejuvenation/skin care rejuvenation, due to its ability to increase blood circulation to a region. Specific studies are limited on its effect as a skin care treatment. Practitioners applying a gua massage tool to the face should generally be less forceful due to the thinner muscles involved.
While gua sha tools are often made of jade stone, some incorrectly label jade facial rollers as gua sha tools. Jade stone rollers work via lymphatic drainage, whereas gua massagers target the fascia.
While gua sha may not be offered by all acupuncturists, it’s important to seek out a practitioner who is trained to offer the modality when pursuing treatment. Sound Cycle’s acupuncture provider database will help you screen for providers who are trained to offer gua sha.