Gua Sha is a traditional Chinese practice that would traditionally be performed by stimulating the skin with hard-sided items such as jade or bone. It is a practice that could be a cousin to acupuncture and massage but emphasizes the direct localized force of the item on the skin of the patient. It works to increase the blood flow under the skin and the circulation in the soft tissue under the skin. This, in turn, has numerous positive effects on the body including anti-inflammatory and immune system benefits.
- The production of HO-1
Early studies show that gua sha may help cells create heme oxygenase-1. HO-1 can help reduce inflammation and is one of many possible benefits of gua sha.
- Relief of chronic pain
Gua sha has been used to help alleviate chronic pain. The increase in blood flow and direct application to trouble areas can help relieve discomfort.
- Hepatitis B
There are some initial studies that show gua sha may help decrease live inflammation. This could be particularly helpful to individuals that have hepatitis B, a liver infection. Chronic hepatitis B can cause serious illnesses such as cirrhosis or liver cancer. While gua sha is not a cure for hepatitis B, it is one type of treatment that may help relieve some of the symptoms.
- Migraine relief
Increase in blood flow and circulation an also lead to relief for chronic migraine sufferers. Gua sha can be used to help when painful migraines strike.
Women who experience perimenopause can experience a wide array of symptoms including hot flashes, fatigue, insomnia, anxiety, and mood swings. Gua sha can be a complementary treatment in conjunction with other items such as medication or hormone therapy to help alleviate these symptoms.
- Tourette syndrome
There are initial studies that show gua sha may have a positive effect on those suffering from Tourette’s syndrome when used along with other treatments. Changes in lifestyle, acupuncture, herbs, and gua sha were all used to help improve this situation.
- Neck and back pain
The stimulating effects of gua sha may help ease neck and back pain. Your treatment provider can focus on specific areas of the body that help increase blood flow in your neck and spine and relieve trouble spots that are causing you discomfort.
What to Expect
While traditional gua sha practitioners used jade or bone, your therapist will likely use a gua massage tool. Your visit with a gua sha practitioner may seem short compared to a massage or physical therapy session. You may only receive treatment for approximately ten minutes. Your practitioner will use oil or another lubricant to minimize abrasions and will work to identify problem areas. After a gua sha session, you may have red marks on your skin. The scraping of the skin can cause capillaries near the skin to burst, but these will disappear within a couple days. It is important to note that gua sha may not be appropriate for people who have blood conditions or disorders.
Gua sha typically has minimal side effects including temporary bruising or discoloration of the skin. There may also be some soreness or tenderness in the areas treated. These should all dissipate within a short period of time. Gua sha is not an appropriate treatment for everyone. You need to disclose your medical history and existing symptoms or issues to your practitioner prior to treatment.
Picking Your Practitioner
Your practitioner should be a skilled acupuncturist or Chinese medicine practitioner and should be certified in gua sha. If you are considering gua sha as an alternative method of treatment for any of the conditions listed above, make certain that you screen your treating therapist. Don’t be afraid to ask questions including:
- Are you licensed in gua sha?
- How long have you been licensed?
- How long have you been practicing gua sha?
- Can gua sha help improve my condition or illness?
Your treatment provider should be someone that you feel comfortable and safe with. You will need to discuss your medical history and reasons for wanting gua sha treatment so that your provider can give you the best care possible and address any specific areas of concern. As in any type of treatment, communication is key. You should clearly identify any problems areas when meeting with your practitioner. You will also feel some pressure during treatment and need to be empowered to vocalize when the pressure is too much or painful.
Gua sha is a specific type of treatment that offers a wide range of benefits. For the best chance of success, it is important that you select your treatment provider carefully and have an open and clear dialogue about your health and goals. Gua sha offers an alternative treatment path that can help many people who are open to its unique technique and plethora of positive benefits.