By, Trish Cooper
Gua Sha is an age-old healing modality that involves applying pressure and scraping the skin with smooth strokes. By creating friction along the skin, the therapy increases circulation of blood along the surface. The body’s immune system then recruits cells to pick up the blood and break it down. Increasing the breakdown of blood has been shown to up regulate an enzyme called HO-1. This is where the real magic begins. HO-1 has both anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, meaning it can help reduce inflammatory symptoms and support neuronal health. For this reason, Gua Sha has shown to be useful in treating an array of conditions including muscle and joint pain, colds, fever, lung issues, and chronic active hepatitis B.1,2
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, “Gua” means to scrape and “Sha” refers to the red skin rash (petechiae) that rises up as a result of the scraping.3 Traditionally, water buffalo horn, spoons or coins were used for tools. However, modern practices use medical stainless steel or copper tools that have smooth round edges and are weighted to fit the practitioners hand. This process is said to open the pores, which allows the release of wind, heat and pathogens. It also improves blood circulation, breaks up fascial adhesions and removes blood stasis. Stagnation is a common source of pain and illness which is why improving circulation is an important factor in reducing symptoms. Once smooth flow of blood has been restored, the body can send its defenses to repair the damages caused by the stagnation.
Whether you have stagnation or deficiency, the “sha” that comes up during treatment can provide diagnostic information for the practitioner. For example, light pink can signify blood deficiency while fresh red can indicate heat or an acute condition. If the sha happens to be dark red or black, that points to deep stagnation and chronicity. Even as the color of the sha begins to fade, it can provide important information. Gua Sha has the power to help diagnose patients, as well as alleviate symptoms from a variety of conditions. It’s a healing modality that has passed the test of time, and will continue to change lives in the future.
1. Nielsen A. The Science of Gua Sha. Pacific College. https://www.pacificcollege.edu/news/press-release/2015/05/05/science-gua-sha. Published February 21, 2019. Accessed August 2, 2019.
2. Uttara B, Singh A, Zamboni P, Mahajan RT. Oxidative Stress and Neurodegenerative Diseases: A Review of Upstream and Downstream Antioxidant Therapeutic Options. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2009 Mar; 7(1): 65-74.
3. Suttie E. Gua Sha. Chinese Medicine Living. https://www.chinesemedicineliving.com/medicine/gua-sha/. Published September 24, 2013. Accessed August 2, 2019.