Understanding Gua Sha: Benefits and Side Effects

Gua sha may reduce inflammation, so it’s often used to treat ailments that cause chronic pain, such as arthritis and fibromyalgia, as well as those that trigger muscle and joint pain.

Gua sha may also relieve symptoms of other conditions:

1. Hepatitis B

Hepatitis B is a viral infection that causes liver inflammation, liver damage, and liver scarring. Research suggests that gua sha may reduce chronic liver inflammation.

One case study followed a man with high liver enzymes, an indicator of liver inflammation. He was given gua sha, and after 48 hours of treatment he experienced a decline in liver enzymes. This leads researchers to believe that gua sha has the ability to improve liver inflammation, thus decreasing the likelihood of liver damage. More research is underway.

2. Migraine headaches

If your migraine headaches don’t respond to over-the-counter medications, gua sha may help. In one study, a 72-year-old woman living with chronic headaches received gua sha over a 14-day period. Her migraines improved during this time, suggesting that this ancient healing technique may be an effective remedy for headaches. More research is needed.

3. Breast engorgement

Breast engorgement is a condition experienced by many breastfeeding women. This is when the breasts overfill with milk. It usually occurs in the first weeks of breastfeeding or if the mother is away from the infant for any reason. Breasts become swollen and painful, making it difficult for babies to latch. This is usually a temporary condition.

In one study, women were given gua sha from the second day after giving birth up until leaving the hospital. The hospital followed up with these women in the weeks after giving birth and found that many had fewer reports of engorgement, breast fullness, and discomfort. This made it easier for them to breastfeed.

4. Neck pain

Gua sha technique may also prove effective for remedying chronic neck pain. To determine the effectiveness of this therapy, 48 study participants were split into two groups. One group was given gua sha and the other used a thermal heating pad to treat neck pain. After one week, participants who received gua sha reported less pain compared to the group that didn’t receive gua sha.

5. Tourette syndrome

Tourette syndrome involves involuntary movements such as facial tics, throat clearing, and vocal outbursts. According to a single case study, gua sha combined with other therapies may have helped to reduce symptoms of Tourette syndrome in the study participant.

The study involved a 33-year-old male who had Tourette syndrome since the age of 9. He received acupuncture, herbs, gua sha, and modified his lifestyle. After 35 once-a-week treatments, his symptoms improved by 70 percent. Even though this man had positive results, further research is needed.

6. Perimenopausal syndrome

Perimenopause occurs as women move closer to menopause. Symptoms include:

  • insomnia
  • irregular periods
  • anxiety
  • fatigue
  • hot flashes

One study, however, found that gua sha may reduce symptoms of perimenopause in some women.

The study examined 80 women with perimenopausal symptoms. The intervention group received 15 minute gua sha treatments once a week in conjunction with conventional therapy for eight weeks. The control group only received conventional therapy.

Upon completion of the study, the intervention group reported greater reduction of symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, fatigue, headaches, and hot flashes compared to the control group. Researchers believe gua sha therapy might be a safe, effective remedy for this syndrome.

At first glance, I don’t really register as your stereotypical athlete. My hair is often an unnatural pastel hue, I rarely leave the house without red lipstick and most of the muscle tone I cultivated through my formative years on the basketball court and track field has slowly faded. In college, while I wasn’t as active as my high school days, I occasionally found time to hit the gym, and I considered that daily trek across my school’s hilly campus (often made in two-and-a-half feet of snow) to be a workout in and of itself.

Fast forward three-and-a-half years later, and I’m starting my first big girl job in NYC. My days are spent in the cozy confines of an office building, seated at a desk for 8+ hours a day. A 90-minute subway commute to my far-flung Brooklyn neighborhood didn’t exactly inspire a trip to the gym most days.

I realize now I wasn’t exactly leading the healthiest of lifestyles, which is why it came as no surprise when I started feeling achy. Since tension headaches run in my family, I convinced myself to shrug off the dull pain that started at the base of my neck and moved up into my head and behind my eyes. But as the months passed and my days got busier (and the hours bent over a computer longer), the pain worsened, spreading down into the muscles of my shoulders and upper back. I consulted the chiropractor who eased me through sports injuries in high school, but the adjustment only offered temporary relief; the pain would be back in a matter of hours. Never one to back down from something new, I was ready to try something a little more extreme.

Through the friend of a coworker, I found myself at the door of Amy Baker, a licensed massage therapist and registered craniosacral therapist. Baker had performed gua sha, an ancient Chinese therapy touted by the likes of Gwyneth Paltrow and Elle Macpherson, on her, to amazing results. The moment I walked into Baker’s office, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. Blame it on her knack for setting the mood, but from the low lighting and gentle instrumental background music to the pleasant scent of lavender essential oil, I knew I was in good hands.

Before beginning the treatment, Baker sat me down to discuss the issues I was experiencing. I walked her through the lifestyle changes I made, including how I spent most of my day hunched over a desk. After assessing my body (and kindly chastising me for my poor posture), she asked if I’d like to try gua sha, her ideal treatment for muscle pain and tightening—what Baker refers to as “congestion.” Before I agreed to the therapy, she warned me that while it wouldn’t be painful, per se, it certainly wouldn’t be pretty. Desperate for relief, I enthusiastically authorized the treatment.

Baker started with what was, without a doubt, the best massage of my life. I consider myself to have a fairly high pain tolerance, so I prefer a very deep massage, and this did not disappoint. I could actually feel her working the knots out of my back with her hands. But that was just the beginning. She retreated for a moment, returning with a tool that she began scraping up and down my back. Since I was face-down on the massage table, I couldn’t see anything, but I pictured her rubbing a small, hand-held dish up and down my back. “Gua means to scrape or scratch,” she explained, moving the instrument down and away from my spine. “Sha means sand, because the sha rash that comes up is like a sand-like texture right on the skin.” Again, she warned me, “This will look dramatic.” The sensation was unlike anything I ever experienced before. I wouldn’t call it painful, but it was definitely intense, and I don’t think it’s a treatment that everyone will enjoy. She dug the tool into the muscles of my back, moving it around my shoulder blades and along my spine, applying pressure until the knots that built up over the past months dissolved. I felt better instantly. As she finished the treatment, I asked to see this “magical” tool that offered so much relief. Baker showed me a bottle cap, slightly larger than the one you’d twist off a bottle of Snapple. I was amazed.

With a final warning as to the visual state of my back, Baker left the room so I could survey the damage and get dressed. I approached the mirror with trepidation and noticed spots of purple and red blooming along the tops of my shoulders. I turned around and for the full effect: bruise-like paths spread down and way from my spine and along the bones of my shoulder blades. Frankly, I looked like I’d been beaten, even though I felt amazing. I felt capable of running a marathon (realistically, jogging around the block a few times), but Baker advised against that: “Your body needs to recover,” she reminded me. “It needs to have time to stabilize and recover, because is a treatment.”

Tyler Joe

What exactly is gua sha, anyway? Beside being, in my opinion, a miraculous healing technique, it’s an ancient Chinese medical therapy created to withdraw “cold winds” from the body. Baker explains: “In Chinese medicine, when you have cold or winds enter the body, things tighten up. This cold wind easily enters the body through the back of the neck, so you’ll often get neck pain, like people who wake up after we start turning on the air conditioners with a stiff neck. Gua sha can pull that cold out.” Baker mainly uses the therapy to treat muscle pain and decreased range of motion.

Since my initial introduction to the treatment several months ago, I’ve returned to Baker for gua sha twice: once so she could focus it on my neck, and another so she could work on my lower back. Every time, I’ve left feeling like a new person—well, more like the same person in a new body. Now, if only there were an ancient technique that could inspire me to hit the gym every day…

Julie Kosin Senior Culture Editor Julie Kosin is the senior culture editor of ELLE.com, where she oversees all things movies, TV, books, music, and art, from trawling Netflix for a worthy binge to endorsing your next book club pick.

Definition and Overview

Gua sha is an ancient Chinese medical treatment that involves the application of pressure on a part of a body (usually the back) to cause what appears like slight bruising. The technique is based on the belief that the causes of ailments or pain will go out through these injured areas, leading to pain relief as well as stimulated blood flow.

Like many forms of Chinese medicine, gua sha has a very long history and has been passed on to several generations and across countries where the Chinese have settled. However, its popularity significantly differs according to locations. While it’s almost mainstream in countries like Vietnam, it is recognized as folk medicine in other parts of Southeast Asia and a novel Chinese treatment in Western nations like the United States.

Some people who have undergone the procedure attest to its effectiveness, although some health experts are concerned about the possible risks and complications as others call it a form of abuse or torture.

Who Should Undergo and Expected Results

Although gua sha can be taken advantage of by anyone, most of the patients are those who complain of physical pain, like chronic back or neck pain.

According to the beliefs of its practitioners, the procedure is helpful to people who are suffering from cold wind, which leads to illnesses like a cough or fever. Cold wind, they say, can enter the body in many different ways such as the back of the neck, causing the muscles to stiffen, which can reduce mobility or introduce discomfort over time.

There’s not enough study to measure the success rate of the practice, and most of what can be read are anecdotal or observational. Equally, it’s hard to determine whether it’s a practice that can be considered safe.

How Does the Procedure Work?

Gua sha or Chinese skin scraping begins with a consultation to determine the actual illness, complaint, and parts of the body to be treated.

The procedure, which is performed in clinics that offer traditional Chinese medicine services, is done on an outpatient basis and may last for at least an hour. Usually, the patient in a private room lies in a prone position (face down) to expose the back. The practitioner then applies a lubricant such as massage oil to the area. Using an instrument like a rounded cap made of metal, the practitioner starts to apply firm and direct pressure onto the skin by following different meridian points.

In other countries, the method can slightly vary. For example, many Vietnamese prefer using coins than other types of metals or materials for scraping or combine these coins with an egg yolk, which serves as the skin’s lubricant.

This process is repeated multiple times, causing the appearance of what looked like bruises on the skin. It’s expected that these will disappear within 48 hours after treatment. The practitioner may also introduce complementary therapies such as herbal medicine, acupuncture, and massage to further improve the results of skin scraping.

Possible Risks and Complications

There may be some physical pain and discomfort after the procedure. However, more than these, some health experts express concerns on the practice such as possible exposure or transmission of infectious diseases as the practitioner may come into contact with the patient’s fluid or other blood cells (or vice versa). Further, there seems to be no universal safety standards for practicing gua sha, which means the level of care (e.g., sterilization of the equipment used) may be significantly different among clinics.

As a Chiropractor, I’ve known about the Graston technique for a long time, but over the last few years, other similar treatments and tools have started becoming popular. These include Gua Sha, Hawk Grips, the Echo Muscle Reliever etc. Whether we are referring to Graston, Gua Sha or any similar tool, these all fall under the IASTM umbrella and therefore their effects will be similar. The results of IASTM are quite different from a massage and I hope to clarify them in this article. Since I am certified in Graston, I will reference specifically the Graston technique, but similar benefits apply to other tools such as Gua Sha.

The first time I had the Graston technique performed on me was during their weekend certification course. I had just had a soft tissue treatment done on me and was covered in bruises all over my entire body. It literally look like I had just fallen out of a 2 or 3 story building, but I felt amazing and had more range of motion and freedom in my muscles than ever before!

Just about every square inch of my body had been scraped and ran over with the shiny metal instruments in Graston’s repertoire. Bruising isn’t always a normal response, but I’d obviously had years of stagnant, fibrous adhesions just begging to be broken down and perhaps an overzealous learning partner too. I’d never had anything else like it, but Graston changed and revolutionized the way I saw how soft tissue treatments were performed.

I remember someone in the class had likened the sensation to a deep tissue massage, however, I’d never felt like this after a massage of any kind. This felt like it was specifically geared towards someone like me, someone in tune with every muscle and how they influenced others in the chain of movement.

But how is Graston really different from a sports or deep tissue massage, and what are the benefits?

1. Target hard to reach adhesions and fibrous tissue

A set of Graston tools come in various shapes and sizes each designed for all the unique places on the human body. The different contours allow every body part, even the immensely difficult ones, to be stripped out and allowed to move the way they were intended to. A masseuse normally stick to use their hands, making it much less efficient and targeted.

2. Greater Efficiency

Having specific tools allow the provider to work on larger surface areas and more tissue in the same time span it would take to use their hands on that same area. Sometimes if someone has a ton of stagnant tissue in a large muscle group, it can take the full amount of time to really release the tension on those areas. The Graston tools allow greater efficiency and consistency, which means quicker results, thus allowing the provider to move on to other areas on the body that need treatment. This helps lead to superior and faster recovery times as well being able to see more patients overall.

3. Consistent and Even Pressure

Even the most skilled deep tissue or sports massage therapist gets tired of consistently applying such deep pressure for an extended period of time. The tools allow the provider to give the same characteristic deep pressure, but allow them greater stamina and consistency too. Some may argue that using these tools allow therapists to get a little deeper into the tissue as well.

4. Graston can help prevent provider fatigue

The tools also ensure that the provider will be less likely to get fatigued during an intense session, which helps them in the long run save on wear and tear on their body, which of course is a concern with some massage therapists after doing the job for a number of years.

5. Eliminates Scar Tissue and other Soft Tissue Injuries

Graston actually targets and breaks up the adhesions and scar tissue that have accumulated in the muscles due to repetitive stress, yet it also promotes proper healing and formation of new, healthy muscle tissue. While deep tissue massage also does this, it stands to reason that Graston may allow more specificity and coverage of the unique body surfaces. With the tools being able to specifically focus on the origin-insertion sites of muscles, tendons, and ligaments, you really notice areas that haven’t been adhesion free start to loosen up and move in the firing pattern they were meant to. Personally, I had some areas that had developed tendonitis (elbow/shoulder) from years of overuse return to their almost normal range of motion and flexibility.

6. Graston has great benefits for a myriad of disorders.

Not only does Graston greatly benefit athletes, it really is for anyone! I’ve seen wondrous results with Graston and long term issues like plantar fasciitis, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, and other soft tissue disorders otherwise thought of as having no recourse or solution to the chronic muscle pain associated. It would make sense that a soft tissue mobilization technique like Graston or massage would help with the treatment of chronic fibrous adhesions in one’s muscles, but Graston’s unique ability to target specific regions with consistent, deep pressure appears to greatly help these patients.

This article isn’t written to dissuade potential patients from trying deep tissue massage, clearly there are numerous benefits to getting regular massages (take it from someone who does!), but merely to educate people on the uniqueness and results that may be available via IASTM or Graston use. For patients who struggle with soft tissue issues, or providers looking to try and gain better treatment outcomes, Graston or IASTM might just be the new tool to help get the results you’ve been looking for.

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Nicole Clark

Nicole Clark is a U.S. trained and licensed physiotherapist who became interested in physiotherapy through her experience as a competitive swimmer and runner. Nicole earned her Master of Science in Physiotherapy from Springfield College in 2003, graduating with honors. Her thesis was accepted to the Combined Sections Meeting of the American Physical Therapy Association in 2004. Nicole has sought post-graduate clinical education in such topics as trigger point dry needling, advanced treatment of the foot and ankle, orthotic fitting, corrective exercise, and joint mobilization.

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More than a year after Michael Phelps’s bruise-dotted back thrust cupping, an alternative massage method, into the public eye, photos of marks left by another ancient therapy recently went viral on Facebook, with more than 11,000 reactions and more than 24,000 shares in a matter of days:

The photos include a female hairdresser who was treated for back pain related to spending hours on her feet. The images were posted by Hitesh Patel, a certified massage therapist based in Leicester, U.K., to warn people to avoid sedentary behaviors that cause pain in the first place.

Before the viral photos were taken, Patel used an ancient Chinese technique called gua sha (or “scraping”), which he first encountered about 15 years ago when traditional physical therapy failed to cure the tennis elbow he’d developed as a result of his massage work. After a friend performed gua sha, Patel’s quick recovery inspired him to research the technique. (Because gua sha is a skill that’s passed from generation to generation, Patel says, he didn’t receive any special certification to perform it.) Now 43, Patel spends most of his working hours practicing gua sha on clients.

WTF Is Gua Sha?

The technique involves scraping oil-lubricated skin by pressing a blunt-edged tool, which comes in different shapes, sizes, and materials, along the muscles. The process is intended to loosen muscles in areas where you’re experiencing pain, such as the back and shoulders, although it technically can be performed anywhere on the body — even on the face, according to Patel.

The red marks that result from treatment show where blood flow previously stagnated and pooled, Patel says.

He adds that in his experience, people with poor circulation typically experience the most redness, which tends to disappear in three to seven days — but that the practice doesn’t always leave a mark.

How Much Does It Hurt?

Although Patel considers gua sha to be more aggressive than cupping and massage, because it reaches even deeper tissues, he insists the therapeutic treatment isn’t (always) as painful as it looks. Patel sends clients home with strict orders to practice prescribed stretches, drink lots of water, and take a bath to promote healing.

Does Gua Sha Actually Work?

Although quality research on gua sha is sparse, purveyors believe it could work by creating artificial trauma that triggers an immune-system response, and increasing blood flow to muscles and tissue to facilitate healing, according to Robert Glatter, M.D., a physician and assistant professor of emergency medicine at Northwell Health’s Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.

Some studies on gua sha seem to support the therapy’s ability to reduce people’s pain, but their results could be skewed by the placebo effect, according to Dr. Glatter. “There’s no data that proves it’s truly more helpful than simply applying heat or ice or taking medication like ibuprofen,” he says.

Is Gua Sha Dangerous?

Gua sha treatments can cause various adverse effects: If your practitioner scrapes your skin with an unsanitary tool, it could set you up for bacterial infections that require antibiotics — something Dr. Glatter has seen before in his practice.

What’s more, excessive pressure on the muscles could tear the membrane that covers them. Although he doesn’t see it often in his practice, Dr. Glatter says this kind of tissue trauma can potentially lead to muscle swelling and rhabdomyolysis, aka “rhabdo,” a rare but life-threatening condition in which muscles release a protein that can overtax the kidneys, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. (It’s the same freak thing that can plague newbies who jump right into spin.)

If you experience rhabdo symptoms after undergoing gua sha, such as post-treatment pain that worsens, fever, dizziness, or pressure, warmth, or increasing redness in the treated area, Dr. Glatter says to seek medical treatment ASAP.

Bottom Line: Should I Try It?

Gua sha is contraindicated for women who are pregnant and people who take blood thinners, are prone to thinning skin or varicose veins, or have a history of stroke or epilepsy, Patel says. But that’s not to say it’s bad news for all.

“For people who don’t want to take traditional medications and are searching for alternative or complimentary methods of pain relief, it’s a reasonable thing to try,” Dr. Glatter says of gua sha that’s performed under sanitary conditions, ideally with one-time-use tools. “But more research is needed to determine whether it’s truly going to help in the long run.”

It’s why he prefers patients first try science-backed solutions such as stretching, exercise, and/or physical therapy, which may take more effort than getting an alternative massage, but are more likely to deliver long-term pain relief.

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How does gua sha work to alleviate pain? I asked. Harrison told me that the physiological mechanisms “are still currently under investigation,” but that the latest evidence points to gua sha’s anti-inflammatory and circulatory properties: It can trigger the release of an anti-inflammatory enzyme with cell-protective effects, she explained, and it can boost blood flow up to 400 percent throughout the treated area, which can result in “immediate and sustained post-treatment pain relief.” It can also result in a thermal change in the skin, she added, so patients may feel physically warm during and after treatment.

I asked her about the gentler form of gua sha, like the kind I’d seen in the ASMR videos, which has become popular both as an in-clinic treatment and in online DIY tutorials. She was skeptical: “It’s hard to say that gentle facial gua sha will definitely work” in the same way as traditional gua sha, she said, “because it doesn’t trigger the signature red-and-purple skin changes.” But she suggested that this gentler gua sha might have more in common with jade roller facial massage, noting that this type of treatment has its own benefits.

At my appointment, lying face-down on the practitioner’s table (most acupuncturists have also trained in gua sha), I was expecting the scraping to hurt a little, but once she poured the herb-infused oil on my back and started the treatment — scraping my skin with a sterilized buffalo/ox horn tool — the pressure was pleasant and welcome, and I wished it went on for longer. It wasn’t as painful as an intense massage, for comparison, and I especially liked when she went over my ribs and the fleshy parts on my shoulders. She told me that gua sha doesn’t always raise the signature bruises, and that the bruising happens more when a person has a lot of pain to deal with, whether it’s emotional or physical. (According to traditional Chinese medicine, the bruising can correspond with where and what kind of pain a person has.) My session didn’t raise many “sha” marks, although that squared with my relative lack of pain going in.

Well, I loved it. I don’t know what it did, if anything, but as with acupuncture, it felt wonderful to have someone paying attention to me in that way. And it did feel warm, which was a nice feeling to carry with me afterward. Three days later, the bruises on my back — more like sprinkles of red dots — had fully faded, although the session lingered in mind for longer.

What is Gua Sha and how can it help

What is Gua Sha and How Can it Help?

By: Dr. Anne Truong
November 11, 2019
Gua Sha, is commonly pronounced as “gwa shah,” is alternative healing, treatment originating in Vietnam, and then adopted popularly by the Chinese. It is a unique method of massaging therapy, which involves a slab with rounded edges. In common practice, the spoon can be bian stone, ox horn, jade, or rose quartz.
Although Gua Sha is a fairly uncommon technique outside the Chinese and Vietnamese populace, it has found its niche in massage and healing practices globally. Breaking the terms Gua and Sha to their bare essentials, Gua in Mandarin roughly refers to “scraping,” and Sha indicates to red or purple blisters on the skin’s surface. In everyday English, Gua Sha also refers to coining or spooning the skin.
The treatment procedure of Gua Sha commonly involves massaging the skin’s surface with a spherical-edged slab, at first firmly, and then increasing the pressure to tolerance. Gua Sha massage is widely regarded as a treatment for multiple forms of afflictions, primarily involving chronic pain.

The History of Gua Sha

The origins of Gua Sha goes back to Vietnam, where it was referred to as “cao gio.” The technique, under unknown circumstances, eventually made its way to China in the Ming Dynasty, where it was adopted and widely used.
Some scholars believe the inter-nation sharing of Gua Sha scraping technique is accredited to the flourishing trade relations of pre and post-medieval Asia, which was the hotbed for commerce till the 1700s. Nevertheless, the method dating back to the Palaeolithic age or the Stone Age.
In that epoch, members of a band would treat a companion afflicted with chronic pain or common sickness or likely unconsciousness, with this technique. They would employ their bare hands or a small stone slab and scrape the afflicted surface region of a body. It is popularly known to free the ‘Chi’ which has become congested.
The Chinese believe that each human body contains an energy or life force, which they refer to as Chi, responsible for the functioning of the brain and other bodily activities. Under various physiological or psychological circumstances, the Chi in our bodies could be blocked in some regions of the body, causing pain. This phenomenon is referred to as stress, which builds up in certain areas of the body such as the neck, shoulder blades, bosoms, back, buttocks, and thighs.
The purpose of Gua Sha therapy is to reopen the channels wherein the chi is congested and let the energy flow adequately to all parts of the body, thus alleviating the affliction or pain.

Application of Gua Sha as a Remedial Measure

In many Chinese articles, Gua Sha is a measure to dredge up the channels or meridians that connect every internal and external organ in the body. While some consider it naught more than hokum which exploits placebo effect to its benefit, many believe its healing power and its ability to cure bodily pains scientifically.
Essentially, what Gua Sha massage achieves is unclogging blood stasis or stagnation, which causes the ache. While its applications are still under exploration and could have far-reaching variables than is currently acknowledged, there are some areas of treatment supported by scientific studies and experiments
A 72-year old woman suffered from severe migraine pain, and Western analgesics failed her repeatedly.
She received a host of treatment centered on the principles of Gua Sha therapy. The procedure continued for 14 days. She improved throughout the treatment, and her pain improved daily. This case study is the first recorded evidence of the use of Gua Sha for curing migraine.
Chronic neck pain
Gua Sha can treat chronic and mechanical neck pain in individuals. The case study was conducted in the Duisburg-Essen University of Germany, wherein 48 outpatients with chronic neck pain.
One group received Gua Sha therapy, and the other group would be treated with the standard thermal pad for a week.
Within a week, both groups’ neck pain improved.The relief did not last for the thermal pad group, whereas the Gua Sha benefits continued long after the treatment. There were remarkable improvements in the neck disability index, range of motion, and quality-of-life index.
Breast engorgement
It is a phenomenon recorded in women who have started breastfeeding, wherein the bosom of a parturient woman is full of milk production. The production, coupled with sucklings result in pain and transient enlargement of the breasts.
Breast fullness was treated with Gua Sha and had significant relief from breasts engorgement pain.
The Perimenopausal syndrome is noted in women who are approaching menopause. The symptoms for this condition involve – insomnia, fatigue, anxiety, melancholia, irregular menstrual cycle, and hot flashes.
Gua Sha was used to alleviate symptoms of Perimenopausal syndrome, 80 women were subjects. These women were divided into 2 groups of 40 each. Similar to the neck pain experiment, Gua Sha massage was provided to one group and the other received conventional therapy.
The study was conducted across a span of 8 weeks with Gua Sha treatment for one day a week. The Gua Sha treated group fared much better in comparison to the latter group. Although no significant changes in hormones common to the premenopausal period, the members of the Gua Sha exhibited much better physiological and psychological conditions compared to the other group.

Compromises of Gua Sha

Since the very essence of Gua Sha is scarping the skin in a downward motion, many individuals question “Does Gua Sha hurt?” In general, Gua Sha is not meant to cause any pain.
Nevertheless, as it involves scraping, there are certain chances of capillary bursts, which may result in red or purple petechiae. These spots disappear within a week at most. According to popular belief, the toxic fluid in our body surges to the places dented with scraping in a downward motion. These colourful spots are, thereby, the congregation of the toxins in our bodies, which causes the chi to choke.
Although, the scientific validity of Gua Sha is yet proven with the use of empirical data, it is considered by many as an effective and alternative method to manage specific ailments (see above). It causes the body to disengage with stress, following the principle of acupuncture, but is more effective due to its broad applications.
Truong Rehabilitation provides Gua Sha therapy right in our offices. To find out more or schedule an appointment, contact us at 540-374-3164.
Reference Links –

I’m always looking for a facial treatment that will give me jaw-dropping results — without an equally shocking price tag. That’s where a buzzy treatment Gua Sha comes in. Gua Sha, also known as “coining,” is derived from traditional Chinese medicine, and it might be one of the more affordable facial treatments you can buy. Here’s everything we know about it, a dermatologist’s thoughts, and a little about my own experience getting a Gua Sha facial.

What is Gua Sha?

“‘Gua’ means scrape, and ‘Sha’ means sand,” explains Dr. Sheel Desai Solomon, a board-certified Raleigh-Durham North Carolina dermatologist. “It’s a treatment that involves scraping a flat jade or rose quartz stone over the skin in upward strokes to relax stiff muscles and promote tissue drainage.”

Yulia LisitsaGetty Images

The treatment is traditionally used in East Asian and Chinese medicine. Some might be familiar with the Gua Sha massage, which treats muscle pain and tight muscles by applying pressure with the Gua Sha tool. The results don’t exactly look pretty, as you can end up with redness and bruising as you heal. However, the results are dramatic, and some have called it the best massage of their life.

There’s also the newer trend of the facial Gua Sha treatment, which uses a similar technique. And while it’s been used for thousands of years, it’s blowing up on Instagram this year as an aesthetic treatment to improve the look and feel of your skin.

What are Gua Sha’s benefits?

There are claims that Gua Sha can help migraines and neck pains, among other symptoms. From Dr. Solomon’s experience, the facial Gua Sha treatment has a variety of benefits.

“Just as our bodies experience stress in the form of shoulders hunched over a computer, or headaches from tension, our faces hold stress in the form of furrowed brows or clenched jaws,” says Dr. Solomon. “Facial Gua Sha is a massage technique designed to relieve tension in the muscles of the face, boost blood circulation, and encourage lymphatic drainage to banish bloat. It helps break up fascia, the connective tissue that hugs muscles but can sometimes interfere with optimal circulation.”

That being said, Dr. Solomon says Gua Sha benefits haven’t been clinically studied, and she doesn’t perform the treatment in her practice. However, she says people report that their skin looks smoother and lifted after one session. And with frequent repetition, this can become part of your comprehensive skin routine.

Okay, and what are Gua Sha tools exactly?

This might sound like another popular trend: The jade roller. But there are significant differences, says Dr. Solomon, who suggests you trust a professional to perform the treatment for you. Performing the treatment on your own face an neck could potentially result in bruising or bursting capillaries, so it’s best to leave things to the experts.

With that being said, there are Gua Sha tools available online for those with experience using them, and you can check them out below:

Gua Sha Facial Tool Set amazon.com $18.99 Gua Sha Scraping Massage Tool amazon.com $9.95 Jade Roller and Gua Sha Tools Set amazon.com $19.95 Jade Gua Sha Tool amazon.com $8.99

My experience with Gua Sha

I am a total Gua Sha newbie, and only heard about it when I saw an advertisement for Heyday Skincare’s new “enhancement.” For an additional $20, I decided to add the treatment to my facial because of the alleged amazing benefits, like preventing and treating saggy skin, brightening complexion, and healing dark circles, rosacea, and scarring. My Heyday “Skin Therapist” walked me through the process, and proceeded to put carotene oil on my face before applying a jade Gua Sha tool. She gently put pressure onto my skin as she moved it from my face and down my neck.

Unlike some of the shocking photos from a Gua Sha massage (I’m sure some facial and skin massages are more intense), this iteration was far from painful and didn’t leave any marks. My skin felt tighter and smoother for the next few days, and I am already preparing for my next Gua Sha treatment.

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Photo: @britta_beauty/Instagram

While the innovation-driven, high-tech side of the beauty world is busy experimenting with microcurrents and synthesizing fancy new ingredients, there’s also been a simultaneous return to more old-school beauty treatments of late. One such example is gua sha, a method of facial massage with crystal tools, which has been springing up all over Instagram — but has actually been making the rounds in the skin-improving sector for thousands of years. With origins in the ancient medical traditions of China and Southeast Asia, gua sha is sometimes known as “spooning” (no, not that kind) or “coining” because of its long history of make-shift home practice.

” traditionally done on the body as a vigorous scraping technique using anything from an antler or horn in its early days, to a jade stone, to porcelain soup spoons when this technique is performed on and by family members,” explains Britta Plug, a holistic skin-care expert and owner of Studio Britta in New York City. She adds, “Don’t worry, the version of facial gua sha that’s swiftly gaining popularity is much more gentle than the traditional version done on the body. It doesn’t involve antlers, and is more of a gentle gliding over tissue using a small stone or crystal board.”

Like its close cousin, the jade roller, facial gua sha is a massage technique designed to relieve tension in the muscles of the face, boost blood circulation and encourage lymphatic drainage to banish bloat. It helps break up fascia — the connective tissue that hugs muscles but can sometimes interfere with optimal circulation — and can even help to make your face look slimmer (albeit temporarily). Devotees swear by its ability to ward off headaches and jaw pain and brighten skin (due to the boost in circulation). Some even consider it a Botox alternative for its ability to unkink settled-in muscle folds.

“Imagine you have a leg injury: The muscles are all knotted up from the trauma and there is scar tissue restricting circulation. You’d be sent for physical therapy to help release the muscles and break down the scar tissue, so that your leg could heal,” explains Plug. “The chronic stress of our day-to-day lives plays out on our faces as a furrowed brow, a clenched jaw. Facial gua sha is a therapy we can apply to uncoil the daily buildup of stress we experience in the face, and restore health, vitality and glow.”

But wait, you’re thinking, this sounds exactly like the jade roller I ran out bought last year. What’s the difference?

“Facial gua sha is more powerful than a roller,” says Plug. “Once you have the basics down, a gua sha tool becomes like a Swiss Army knife, one tool with a dozen functions and uses. Depending on your pressure, which edge you use, your speed and direction, you can either lift or de-puff, work on surface lines or deep muscular tension.”

Of course, this trendy skin-care treatment isn’t all sunshine and Instagram likes. A quick image search for gua sha will yield a selection of bruising and burst capillaries that would put off even the most daring DIY skin-care experimenter. But these results are usually the product of the more aggressive techniques used on the body, or of improperly performed facial treatments. “Facial gua sha requires the correct technique in order to reap the benefits and avoid mishaps,” says Plug. “It’s not at all common for my clients and students to have any kind of bruising.”

Photo: @minimalbeauty/Instagram

That doesn’t mean that going to a pro is the only way to try out gua sha, though. The key is knowing what you’re doing, which is why most experts recommend taking a 101 class if you’re serious about upping your facial massage game, but if you’re keen to give it a go ASAP the most important factor in avoiding the “Fight Club” aesthetic is to be gentle. “If you’re too vigorous, especially where the skin is thinner, like around the eyes, you can bruise,” warns Plug.

As with jade rollers, gua sha is best performed on clean skin that’s been primed with a serum or moisturizer to fend off excess friction. Angling the gua sha tool as close to parallel with your skin as possible (you don’t want to dig the edge straight in like you’re chopping), place the fingers of your free hand close to the tool’s edge to provide some resistance, and then gently sweep the tool up and out toward the perimeter of your face. At the end of each stroke, give the tool a little extra wiggle to help release the tension (the edges of the face are chock-full of overworked muscle and ligament connections). Repeat each stroke three times — you can build up to more once you’ve learned your skin’s tolerance, but Plug says not to exceed 10— concentrating on puff-prone areas, like the cheeks and undereyes.

For a general freshening up, Plug suggests using gua sha techniques at home two to three times per week, but if you’re hoping for those injectable-like results, you’ll need to seek out professional help — often. “For those clients, we recommend weekly sessions,” says Plug “It’s a lot, but hey, injections are expensive, too.”

Complexion-wise, many skin types can benefit from gua sha, though Plug advises against it for anyone with inflamed skin (aka those with acne, rosacea, or anyone with a sunburn). Likewise, she recommends that sensitive types and those prone to breakouts stick to less intense roller massages or seek out a pro to get personalized instructions for how to treat their skin properly with gua sha.

When it comes to choosing the right tool, the sheer array of shapes, sizes and materials can be daunting, but it all really comes down to personal preference. For maximum versatility, you want a tool with at least one longer straight or slightly curved edge, one small curve to use around the eye area, and a divot or “V” shape that can fit against the angle of the jaw. Beyond that, you merely want to choose a tool that feels comfortable in your hand.

Though there are gua sha tools made of everything from jade and quartz (both beloved among holistic medicine practitioners for their supposed healing energies) to plain old plastic, Plug suggests opting for something that falls in your aesthetic happy place. “Having a beautiful tool enhances this ritual aspect,” she says. “You want to choose a stone that you’re going to spend some quality time with.”

8 8 Images

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Gua Sha

Our Acupuncturist In Bangor, Ellsworth And Brewer Offers Gua Sha Therapy

Gua Sha is an ages old, yet timeless therapy that has wide-ranging application. Gua Sha can be used to complement acupuncture, chiropractic and massage therapy in our office. Along with its neuromuscular applications, Gua Sha or commonly referred to as scraping can be used to optimize immunity during cold and flu season as well by our acupuncturist in Bangor, Ellsworth and Brewer.

How Gua Sha Complements Chiropractic Care, Acupuncture And Massage Therapy

Many people hear the term scraping and wonder what Gua Sha is all about. Gua Sha uses a rounded tool that “scrapes” along the skin’s surface to bring up what is referred to in traditional Chinese Medicine as “sha”. This term came about because it made the skin appear to look like sand. From a biomedical perspective, to understand Gua Sha is simple. This modality is used to encourage metabolic waste to the surface layers so that it may be eliminated from the body to advance healing.

In some cases, Gua Sha will be used alone- your treatment will be centered around this specific therapy. At other times, Gua Sha may be used to help move metabolic waste along the spinal column to help a subluxed region realign through chiropractic care. Alongside an acupuncture treatment, Gua Sha is commonly used to reduce headaches, muscle soreness and stiffness, for sports-related concerns and at the first signs of cold or flu. To prevent cold and flu from penetrating into deeper layers and activating a severe immune response, Gua Sha can be used. The region that Gua Sha is performed in will depend on the ailing region and is usually that particular anatomical area.

The Gua Sha Procedure At Back In Balance Center

The Gua Sha tool is “scraped” along the skin’s surface, but not to worry, there will be no skin removal or breaking of the skin’s surface. Gua Sha is a safe, topical modality only. Our experienced acupuncturist in Bangor, Ellsworth and Brewer will guide the tool both along and across muscle fibers to encourage metabolic waste to come to the surface of the skin. After your treatment, you may notice a very red area where the scraping took place. In some cases, it may appear slightly blue. It is important to understand that this is not bruising and the colored appearance is a metabolic waste. Drinking plenty of water following your treatment as you would after a massage will help remove this waste from the body and speed up healing. If you will be attending an event and need to wear a backless form of clothing, discuss this with our acupuncturist in Bangor, Ellsworth and Brewer.

Gua Sha is also a natural complement to massage therapy to help move and remove areas of stagnation. Gua Sha can be applied to the back of the long spinal muscles, along with the neck, down the IT band and more.

Contact Us Today!

Ready to experience Gua Sha for healing? Call us at 207-947-8077 now.

Gua Sha, a traditional Chinese medical treatment may look and sound torturous (seriously, Google image search Gua Sha to see some pretty intense pictures), but is anything but. Pronounced (GWA – SHAH), this treatment involves scraping the skin to form light bruises. It is thought that during this process, unhealthy elements are released from injured areas of the body and blood flow is stimulated to decrease pain and increase the healing process.

Perhaps what makes it appear so painful are the red marks left all over a person’s body post-procedure. These rash-like marks and bruises are know as petichia, which is simply stagnant blood that is trapped in the tissues. During an injury, blood flow is decreased to the injury site and both lactic acid and uric acid can get trapped underneath the skin, or within bound up muscle. Forcing that blood out of these tissue masses is what causes the petichia (bruise-like appearances) and promotes healing, thereby reducing pain.

An effective Gua Sha treatment can be done at home using basic techniques, although intense Gua Sha treatments should be done by licensed professionals. The treatment itself involves using a tool to “scrape” over a wound-up/knotted muscle (usually identified by sore spots in your body), to help move toxins out or to break up scar tissue. One area is rubbed unilaterally (one direction) for about 20-30 seconds, and by applying medium pressure; there is no need to press forcefully.

It is most commonly used to treat back pain, muscle spasms, strains, sprains, muscle pains in the legs, muscle tension caused by arthritis, and foot problems (like plantar fasciitis). It can also be used to treat symptoms related to asthma and the common cold! The treatment does not hurt, per se, but can be uncomfortable depending on how sore your muscles are.

Gua Sha can also be performed on the face and has been likened to a natural form of “botox” treatment. By deeply massaging the face, muscle contractions are relaxed, which give the appearance of a smoother complexion. Deep lines are also lessened through this relaxation and fine lines sometimes disappear all together. While this has yet to be clinically tested, I am really curious if anyone has tried facial Gua Sha and what their experience has been (please comment below if you have and give me the details!)

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Oct 05

Benefits of Scraping Therapy

Scraping is a soft tissue mobilization technique that helps to aid your body in healing from soft tissue injuries. Tissue in our bodies that connect, support or surround our internal organs and bones are generally what are called “soft tissues.” These would include fascia, ligaments, tendons and muscles. If you are experiencing pain caused by a soft tissue injury, you may be interested in the benefits of scraping therapy.

Soft tissue injuries can be caused by trauma and come on suddenly, or can caused by overuse. Soft tissue injuries can be mild, moderate or severe. Pain, swelling, stiffness or bruising can all be associated with soft tissue injuries.

When soft tissue is damaged in your body, adhesions are formed as your body’s way of dealing with the injury. Adhesions are basically scar tissue that can build up and be a source of pain. In some cases, scraping may help and can offer you pain relief when administered by a trained physical therapist.

What Is Scraping Therapy?

A variety of tools in different shapes and sizes are used and “scraped” against the area of dysfunction in the muscle. This helps to break up the restrictions in your muscle. During scraping, your physical therapist will use a tool to gently “scrape” back and forth over any muscle tissue where you may be experiencing issues.

This serves to reduce soft tissue muscle restrictions. Scraping can be beneficial to patients with scar tissue, fascia restrictions, strained muscles and more.

  • Eliminate or reduce pain
  • Increase range of motion
  • Break down adhesions
  • Reduce swelling

If other methods have failed to help you get out of pain, scraping could be a way to help your body heal and recover from soft tissue injuries. Our physical therapists are trained in scraping therapy and can work with you to reduce soft tissue muscle restrictions through this therapy.

To schedule an appointment with one of our trained physical therapists to see if scraping therapy will work for you, contact us today.

Gua sha scraping massage

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