The picture might be a little scary to some, but trust us, gua sha feels pretty good. And it’s even better for you.
Gua sha means “scrape red” and it is just that: scrapping the skin (with the help of oil and a round and hard tool – traditionally a soup spoon, coin, or horn) to create an abrasion. The result, a rash-like spotting, might look a little jarring to those who don’t know what it is, but it is actually a great sign that healing is occurring. The scrapping motion helps to release toxins, heat, and stagnation built up in the superficial layers of the body. It moves stagnant blood, qi and fluids, and boosts the immune system – making it a great treatment for inflammation, chronic pain, back pain, migraines, fever, and colds.
We’ve known for thousands of years that gua sha works, and now studies are helping to explain how. One study found that after a gua sha treatment, patients were found to have a significant increase in body temperature and blood perfusion compared to non-scraped areas, meaning increased circulation and perhaps the removal of small obstructions in the capillaries (Xu, Q., et al, 2012). Another randomized control study reported that gua sha treatment resulted in improvement in range of motion, levels of pain, quality of life, vitality, and patient satisfaction, when compared to patients who were given a heat pack and ginger instead (Braun, M., et al, 2011).
Patients can expect to feel a little tender or sore for a day or two after receiving treatment. It is important to keep the area protected away from sun, heat, or cold, so that it can heal properly. It is also important to hydrate very well following a gua sha treatment, as your body is flushing out toxins and regenerating!
Braun, M., Schwickert, M., Nielsen, A., Brunnhuber, S., Dobos, G., Musial, F… Michalsen, A. (2011). Effectiveness of Traditional Chinese “Gua Sha” Therapy in Patients with Chronic Neck Pain: A Randomized Control Study. Pain Medicine, 12, 362-369.
Xu, Q., Yang, J., Zhu, B., Yang, L., Wang, Y., and Gao, X. (2012). Effects of Scraping Therapy on Local Temperature and Blood Perfusion Volume in Healthy Subjects. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012, 521-525.