The benefits of Gua Sha

Discover the healing modality of Gua Sha and its traditional application. Discover the many benefits of this Chinese scratching method which have been confirmed in research studies as well as during Gua Sha sessions in Jimmy’s private practice.

Gua Sha, the term for the Chinese method of scratching, has been known for hundreds of years as a healing modality. “Gua” refers to a massage or massage and “sha” refers to heat and energy in motion. First recorded in practice during the Chinese Ming Dynasty between 1368-1644, the terms knocking, scratching, and spooning have also been used to describe this work. (1)

Stones for the practice of Gua Sha

Many different stones can be used for the practice of Gua Sha:

  • Jadeite or nephrite jade are commonly used.
  • In addition, rose quartz and smoky quartz were used.
  • Varieties of metals, including steel and graphite, were created.
  • Varieties of colored plastic are sold online, so be sure to read the descriptions carefully to understand whether you are buying real stones, metal versions, or plastic versions.

Deeper esoteric understanding of Gua Sha

Some people think of Gua Sha as a simple myofascial release technique. Although scaring can be seen this way, a deeper esoteric understanding of Gua Sha reveals how powerful this work can be in the case of illnesses.

To understand the traditional application of Gua Sha, it is important to describe the disease from the perspective of Chinese medicine. In Chinese medicine terms, the disease presents itself in the form of heat, summer heat, cold, drought, humidity, and wind. These terms represent how a condition manifests signs and symptoms throughout the body.

For example, Parkinson’s disease can be thought of as a dry-wind condition: dryness in the joints limiting mobility and wind in the limbs creating the tremors.

Gua Sha tries to help conditions characterized by heat, summer heat and wind

  • A client with heat conditions will have inflamed tissue, fever, warmth and redness of the skin, swelling, sweating, sharp pain and / or hot flashes.
  • A client showing Summer Heat will have more extreme manifestations of Heat.
  • A client showing Wind will have an overactive mind, restless movements, headaches, tremors, respiratory illness, throbbing pain and / or transient symptoms.

4 Research studies

Here are four research studies confirming the many benefits of including Gua Sha in treatments.

  1. Explore the newspaper, September / October 2007, Nielsen et al, published results according to which Gua Sha increased local microcirculation in a treated area and played a role in reducing muscle pain (myalgia). (2)
  2. Complementary Medicine Journal, March 2017, Yeun et al, published findings that Gua Sha treatments relieved chronic back pain in elderly patients, more than patients using only heat treatments. (3)
  3. Journal of the North American Menopause Society, March 2017, Meng et al, published results that found Gua Sha to be effective and safe in relieving symptoms of perimenopause and improving the quality of life of patients with perimenopausal syndrome. (4)
  4. Complementary therapy in clinical practice, May 2019, Xiaolan et al, published findings that Gua Sha treatments reduced symptoms of diabetic peripheral neuropathy. (5)

My clients have reported these benefits

Within my private practice, many clients have reported these benefits after receiving Gua Sha sessions:

  • Patients with thoracic outlet syndrome reported a significant improvement in local circulation in their hands after three sessions.
  • One patient with edema, due to burn scars earlier in his life, was able to facilitate lymphatic movement and reduce edema after four treatments.
  • A client with multiple post-surgical scars observed reduced tension and scar tissue integrity after three sessions.
  • A construction worker with bound myofascial tissue that feels hard and restricted on palpation saw significant relief in muscle tension after four sessions.
  • A mother who recently gave birth, Gua Sha was included in her postpartum massage sessions and she reported increased milk production and decreased mastitis-related inflammation after three sessions.
  • A patient with osteoarthritis with chronic pain, limited range of motion, and loss of finger grip strength showed improvements in all three areas after four sessions.
  • One scoliosis patient with frequent moderate to severe headaches (at least twice a week) reported a reduction in both the intensity and frequency of the headache after three sessions.

Controversial statement

One of the controversial claims about Gua Sha concerns the lesion marks seen on the skin after the sessions. Gua Sha does NOT need to cause major bruising. This idea is subjective, however, as we all have different opinions about what “major” bruises can mean. What I mean by “major bruising” is the presence of deep lesions, causing a lot of internal bleeding that requires the body to deposit scar tissue as part of the healing process.

What to expect

Gua Sha can cause discoloration of the skin, appearing as shades of pink, red, or purple.

The underlying scars that develop in deeper connective tissues, due to excessive internal bleeding and fascial rupture, can lead to decreased function and range of motion in the area of ​​the body to long term. In the short term, the surge of endorphins at the injury site can be pleasant for clients. However, as the tissues break down further, incomplete restoration of the tissues leads to the development of scars for the tissues to heal properly.

There may be some discoloration appearing as shades of pink, red or purple. This is considered a bruise, the result of bleeding under the skin, usually (but not always) caused by light bruising. The deeper the red and purple shades, the more bruising.

petechiae

Petechiae, bleeding caused by capillary rupture, can be observed during Gua Sha treatments. This can appear as pink to red spots in bruises or skin lesions. Petechiae can also be linked to drugs such as Cerebyx and penicillin, as well as infectious conditions such as strep throat, endocarditis, mononucleosis, and scarlet fever. If a client has vasculitis, thrombocytopenia, leukemia, or vitamin K deficiency, Gua Sha can cause excessive petechiae. (6)

The presence of bruises (blisters of blood), excessive bruising and severe petechiae are signs that Gua Sha has been practiced very intensely. It is important to stop scratching treatments when the observed skin lesions become excessive, when the skin becomes itchy, itchy or burning, and when the client expresses verbal statements or non-verbal cues of discomfort.

Check in with clients often as everyone reacts uniquely to sessions. Please do not leave the table space during a session. There is no set time limit. Gua Sha tools can be used on the body. Some people ‘s skin will react within seconds, while others will take several minutes for skin changes to occur. Ideally, a pink to red discoloration is observed without severe bruising after the session.

Stretching and personal care

I encourage clients to stretch and maintain their personal care habits after receiving Gua Sha treatment. Stretching will strengthen the length of the tissues provided after the treatment.
Other self-care habits that will benefit will include:

  • cool topical agents
  • soothing breathing
  • applications of essential oils to refresh the skin after care (peppermint, wintergreen, eucalyptus, geranium and / or lavender) (7)
  • and keep the activity light.

About the Author

Jimmy Gialelis, LMT, BCTMB

Jimmy Gialelis, LMT, is a National Board Certified Clinical Practitioner passionate about clients achieving maximum health gains. A member of the Massage Therapy Hall of Fame, he contributes to the Massage and Body Work Licensing Examination as an Examination Item Writer. He operates a continuing education company, Advanced Massage Arts & Education, as well as his private practice studio in Tempe, Arizona.

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