Gua Sha (pronounced GwaShah) is an Eastern Medicine scraping technique. We apply oil to the skin, then treat the area with a rounded tool. This repetitive scraping action gradually brings up petechiae, tiny pinpricks on the skin which are usually purple or red. The procedure is pain-free and the markings usually disappear within 3 – 5 days. Scraping is a rather misleading term as nothing is actually removed from the skin. The skin is just stimulated to release the petechiae.
There is a Chinese saying which goes “No free flow: pain; free flow: no pain”. Acupuncture moves Blood and Qi but sometimes an extra technique like Gua Sha or Chinese Cupping Therapy is needed.
HOW DOES GUA SHA WORK?
“Dredging the channels”is the description of the Gua Sha effect. This creates a stronger effect than the use of acupuncture alone. In fact, the increased surface micro-perfusion vents heat in heat-stressed people.
This treatment ‘releases the exterior’, a Chinese Medical term which means it can release an acute condition. In Asia, this is used together with Chinese Cupping Therapy when a person has a cold or for illnesses such as measles and chicken pox.
Gua Sha resolves blood stagnation. People describe a blood stagnation pain often as ‘boring‘ or ‘stabbing‘. Many injuries result in blood stagnation and the treatment helps to release it.
In Western Medical terms, Gua Sha can stimulate the immune system, reduce pain and inflammation.
HOW DOES GUA SHA DIFFER TO OTHER THERAPIES?
There are at least 3 characteristics which distinguish this from other manual therapies:
- Closely repeated stroking with a specific tool that intentionally presses into the fascia
- The application is predominantly along a muscle
- The treatment intentionally creates petechiae
WHAT IS GUA SHA USED FOR?
Gua Sha can be used for a wide variety of conditions:
- Musculo-Skeletal – Injuries can take many months to resolve. In Chinese Medicine terms, the stagnation of Qi and Blood is often a cause of the pain. Bringing the stagnant Qi and Blood to the surface thereby releases much of the tightness. For these aims, we treat the joints but also down the back. Gua Sha can reap great benefits in cases of joint pain, muscle pain and sciatica. People often comment that the results looks painful; instead, Gua Sha isn’t painful at all. It’s a great pain relief.
- Relieving Heat Conditions – Gua Sha helps with cold and fever . Also, I have used it with success to help women suffering from hot flushes. If the patient has a very red tongue, the tongue will often appear far less red after the treatment. In fact, this indicates that the treatment removed some heat from the body.
- Headaches – this treatment can relax tight shoulder and neck muscles which contribute to many headaches and migraines.
- Lower Abdominal Pain – This includes stomach ulcers, hernia, bloating.
- Urinary Difficulties – Gua Sha can be help with bladder pain, cystitis, and pain in the genitals.
- Menstruation – The treatment can be helpful for irregular menstruation, period pains and heavy periods.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT GUA SHA.
- Can it help with scar tissue? Yes, Gua Sha may help with scar tissue and connective tissue improving movement in the joints.
- Are there any contraindications? People who have cancer, Parkinson’s or are on blood thinners may not be good candidates for it.
- Which tools do we use? Jade used to be the material of choice for a Gua Sha tool. However, new health guidelines demand that all instruments are one-use only. Instruments now are usually cheaper jar lids, however, in my opinion, the effect is just as good if not better.
- Is it suitable during pregnancy? Yes, you can have a Gua Sha treatment in pregnancy but not on the abdomen. (Read more: “Is acupuncture safe during pregnancy?”)
- Is it good for the face? Gua Sha is sometimes a part of an acupuncture facial treatment. In these cases, we will take great care not to raise many petechiae. However, it can bring blood to the surface and give the skin a nice glow.
- How much does it cost? This treatment can usually be a part of an acupuncture session. Check here my acupuncture prices.
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About Jackie Graham Acupuncture in Ealing
Jackie Graham is a licensed acupuncturist working in Ealing W5 and W13. She is passionate about helping people towards good health. You can also find Jackie at the Bridge to Health Ealing clinic. To discuss your condition and to book an appointment call her on 07733 274745