What Is Gua Sha? A Guide to This Traditional Chinese Medicine Wellness Practice

During a gua sha treatment, tiny, round patches on the skin are raised with a smooth-edged tool (such as a little buffalo horn, wooden spoon, or a gemstone gua sha tool). Petechiae are little red dots that appear on the skin when there is subcutaneous bleeding.

Because of their sandlike appearance, petechiae are called "gua sha," where "gua" means scrape and "sha" means sand.

Stuck "qi" (also called life force energy) and blood are believed to be at the root of many ailments and health concerns from the standpoint of traditional Chinese medicine. Gua sha is practised to promote a balanced flow of blood and energy by producing petechiae at acupressure sites.

Professionals in the fields of acupuncture, Chinese medicine, chiropractic, massage therapy, and physical therapy are the most common providers of gua sha treatments (using a form of gua sha known as the Graston Technique).

Sub-Genres of Gua Sha

There are several variations of gua sha that you could encounter. Some of them are −

Common Gua Sha Techniques

In this kind of traditional Chinese medicine, a practitioner scrapes your skin softly with a smooth-edged tool. According to Gould, the goal from a conventional medical perspective is to decrease systemic inflammation, enhance circulation, or/and expand range of motion.

The Graston Approach

The Graston Method is a scraping process used by some physical therapists. It's comparable to gua sha in that a smooth edged object is used to scrape the skin. The Graston Method is aimed at the underlying muscles, tendons, and fascia, as opposed to the skin and capillaries like gua sha. The goal is to reduce pain by stimulating proprioceptors and encouraging collagen creation.

Cosmetic Gua Sha

When applied to the face, gua sha can reduce stress, swelling, redness, and even sinus congestion for some people.

Potential Gains from Gua Sha

There is much about gua sha and its effects that remains unknown. Nonetheless, there may be several advantages to this method, according to the available evidence.

Possible Pain Relief for Sore Muscles

By increasing circulation to the area, gua sha can ease soreness and stiffness. One study found that persons with persistent neck discomfort experienced greater pain relief with a single gua sha treatment than from using a heating pad. In addition, a week following treatment, individuals who had gotten gua sha still reported less pain. However, additional study is required to ascertain whether or not gua sha is an efficient long-term option for managing pain.

Possible Symptom Relief during Perimenopause

Hot flashes, insomnia, and mood swings are all symptoms that some women report experiencing during perimenopause. In addition to hormone therapy and other treatments, gua sha may be useful in alleviating the discomfort associated with these conditions.

Potentially Beneficial for Diabetic Neuropathy

Diabetes can cause nerve damage known as diabetic neuropathy. It manifests itself when excessive hyperglycemia in the bloodstream causes damage to nerves all over the body, especially in the lower extremities.

Dangers of Gua Sha

As long as the gua sha practitioner does not apply excessive force, the practise is thought to be harmless. Extreme muscle discomfort, redness or bruising of the skin, and even injury could result from applying too much force.

Avoid performing gua sha on skin that is irritated or inflamed due to conditions like psoriasis, eczema (atopic dermatitis), or rosacea.

For Whom Gua Sha Is Appropriate (or Not Appropriate)

The evidence for the effectiveness of gua sha is scant, despite its growing popularity. Further research is needed to see if gua sha has broad benefits, however the studies listed above suggest it may help with chronic pain, diabetic neuropathy, and perimenopausal symptoms in women.

Further research is needed to prove the advantages of gua sha for easing tension headaches, migraines, anxiety, exhaustion, and sleeplessness.

But, before attempting gua sha, some people should talk to their doctor. Those with blood coagulation issues or who take blood thinners are not excellent candidates for gua sha.

Furthermore, psoriasis, dermatitis, and rosacea sufferers may not respond well to gua sha. Houshmand suggests getting a professional opinion first.

Although gua sha can be safely received by pregnant women, it is important to communicate this information to your practitioner. "I wouldn't do gua sha anywhere near the tummy, and I'd be extremely careful about the back," one practitioner advised.

But, if you're pregnant and have had miscarriages in the past, he says you should stay away from gua sha completely.

Getting to the Gua Sha

According to the Cleveland Clinic, gua sha can be requested from any facility that provides acupuncture from licenced practitioners because acupuncturists are trained in gua sha. You can enquire with local chiropractors and massage therapists to see if they offer gua sha to see if it is available in your region. When a doctor recommends alternative treatments like acupuncture, physical therapy, or chiropractic care, those costs may be covered by insurance. Yet, even when combined with one of these treatments, gua sha is typically not covered by insurance companies.

The price tag shifts depending on your location and the practitioner you choose. Before beginning gua sha therapy, it is important to research the out-of-pocket costs involved.


Depending on who you see for gua sha and what ails you, your treatment may or may not be effective. But, you should discuss your health history and any current concerns with the practitioner you select. This will allow the therapist to tailor the treatment to your specific needs and avoid any painful regions. Often, a session of acupuncture, chiropractic care, or physical therapy will conclude with a gua sha massage.

Gua sha is usually combined with another treatment, while there are practitioners who specialise in just gua sha or who practise it for significantly longer lengths of time. To make the scraping tool more comfortable to use, many professionals add a lotion or oil to the skin beforehand.

Updated on: 10-May-2023


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