What Is Gua Sha?

By Jen Ward /

What Is Gua Sha?

Gua Sha might be all the rage on Instagram right now, but its origins date back thousands of years, originating in Chinese Medicine and spreading first to Vietnam and then throughout the rest of the world.

What Is Gua Sha?

Gua Sha is a modality used across the world in clinics and homes as self-care and continues to gain popularity in the West. Ask your acupuncturist! Gua Sha is a part of acupuncture therapy, but not limited to the Chinese Medicine scope of practice. 

Gua means "to rub" or "press stroke". Sha describes the blood congestion in tissues and for the red dots that are raised from applying Gua Sha. Gua Sha, scraping or coining, involves using a tool on parts of the body experiencing pain or stagnation specifically to create bruising and redness to promote healing. It can be done almost anywhere on the body but is typically applied at the back, neck or shoulders. As with other aspects of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Gua Sha works with the body, boosting its own healing processes.

woman receiving gua sha

How is Gua Sha Used in Chinese Medicine?

Gua Sha is used whenever a patient has pain acute or chronic disorders. There may be aching, tenderness and or pain in the muscles. In addition to resolving pain, Gua Sha can improve movement in the joints by breaking down scar tissue and connective tissue. Gua Sha can also be implemented to treat a common cold, flu, asthma and other inflammatory disorders.  

The treatment involves using a tool to rub the skin in long strokes by applying pressure to create minor bruising. Your practitioner or you at home will use an oil or balm with a tool such as a lid, soup spoon, coin, horn, rose quartz, jade or wood. There are a variety of modern tools today. Today we find elegant facial flat grooved tools of polished stones for modern Gua Sha that is touted as soothing.

Can Gua Sha Be Harmful?

Gua Sha is safe but can be serious medicine. A practitioner administering Gua Sha will view the color of the Sha that is both diagnostic and prognostic. What is the quality and fast does it fade? These help assess the pattern of a presenting problem. The Sha petechiae should fade in 2-4 days. If it takes longer, the pathology is deeper either a  deficiency of Blood or a deeper stagnation or organ deficiency at the root.

It is also recommended to moderate activity after treatment, even rest. After treatment the patient is advised to keep the area protected from cold or direct sun. It’s best to drink plenty of water and refrain from alcohol. Gua Sha is often done in combination with acupuncture and herbs for problems that acupuncture alone cannot address. 

Jen Ward combines Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, Functional Medicine and Integrative Health Coaching and Pilates to help you achieve optimal health. By applying ancient wisdom to a modern lifestyle, Jen helps you balance your body by uncovering the root of your imbalance and explore your constitutional health, your nature within. Jen offers individualized support and incorporates the appropriate health tools to help you achieve your health goals. She is also the Business Development Director at DAO Labs. Reach out to her at jen@mydaolabs.com to learn more.

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