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Gua Sha

Gua Sha is an East Asian healing technique. Gua means to scrape or rub. Sha is a 'reddish, elevated, millet-like skin rash' (aka petechiae). It was used in China as an adjunct to Chinese Medicine although it is practiced widely in many countries, particularly amongst family members for treating common aliments. Initially it was used to treat the excessive effects of exposure to heat and cold and rheumatic pain of the elderly. In the latter half of last century, it was further refined and Jing Luo (meridian) Gua Sha was developed. This was used more by practitioners of Chinese Medicine as a way of diagnosis and treatment of painful blocked meridians. In the 1990's a further refinement was made and Holographic Gua Sha was developed. This idea was that you could diagnose and treat any aspect of the body from the finger, scalp, ear or any major bone. This is similar to the idea of Reflexology where a particular zone of the foot or hand is connected to the function and health of a region of the body.

What does Gua Sha Do?
Gua sha releases the exterior of the body by moving body fluids and blood, stimulating blood flow and helping to discharge trapped external pathogenic factors through the skin. The skin will feel warm and red marks are often seen after a Gua sha treatment. This redness or purplish hue to the skin is trapped or congealed blood that is not circulating properly in the body. In classical Chinese medicine, Gua Sha is commonly used in the home to treat a wide range of basic health problems:

Treat stiffness, immobility and rheumatic pain
Treat muscle and tendon injuries.
Reduce fever
Treat fatigue caused by exposure to heat or cold.
Bronchitis, asthma, emphysema and common cold
Improve circulation
Treat headache.
Treat digestive disorders
Treat urinary, gynecological disorders
To assist with reactions to food poisoning.

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 muscular skeletal pain, Gua Sha is used to treat as well as prevent , as well as any chronic disorder involving pain, congestion of Qi and Blood. The colour of the Sha is also diagnostic of the underlying condition.

light Sha - indicate Deficiency of Blood.
Red Sha - recent invasion of a pathogenic factor
Dark red Sha - can indicate heat
Purple or dark Sha - Long standing blood stasis
Brown Sha - dry blood

The Sha, or petechiae, should fade in 2-4 days. If it is slower to fade, it indicates poor Blood circulation, the cause of which may need to be looked into more deeply.

How do i do it?
The area to be treated is lubricated with oil. The skin is then rubbed with a round-edged instrument in short downward strokes from the top of the body to the bottom or strokes away from the midline of the body.
There are specific oils (Red Flower Oil & Woodlock Oil) that a practitioner will apply for treating specific conditions, however you can use a neutral base oil you like such as almond oil or olive oil.
To perform Gua Sha you can use anything with a rounded edge that is blunt and smooth enough not to cause a feeling of scratching. In China they use specific instruments of buffalo horn, jade and even old rounded metal coins. Sometimes improvised instruments such as ceramic soup spoons and metal lids with a rounded lip are used.
Angle the Gua Sha instrument at about 45 degrees towards the direction you want to scrape and then use short repeated strokes over the area. Work that area until a Sha or petechiae is completely raised, then move onto another area. If there is no Blood stasis the petechiae will not form and the skin will only turn pink.
The spine and other bone areas can have Gua Sha applied, however less pressure should be used, as they can be more uncomfortable.
Gua Sha is applied 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. For more information on Gua Sha; A Traditional Technique for Modern Practice was written for any caregiver interested in learning Gua Sha.

When should I NOT have Gua Sha?
You should not perform Gua Sha over broken skin, moles, cuts and brushes or other blemishes in the skin. You need to wait till the Sha has completely faded before performing Gua Sha over the same area (usually 2-4 days).

What does it feel like?
Although the after effects of a good Gua Sha session looks alarming, its actually painless and extremely effective in soothing aches, pains and stiffness. Whilst receiving Gua Sha, it might feel a little scrapie, if it is too uncomfortable, the practitioner can easily adjust their technique, or if you are performing Gua Sha on yourself, you can adjust the pressure accordingly.

Some people have conditions where long term tension, pain or stress have an emotional cause (Internal Pathology). Using a strong releasing technique such as Gua Sha can be unsettling or even shocking and so it is important to rest after a treatment if you are feeling particularly emotional.

This site may contain information on medical and health-related topics. This information is not meant to be a substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. You should not use this information for diagnosing a health problem or disease but should always consult your own physician.