Gua Sha

Gua Sha Therapy

A traditional medical treatment for pain, stiffness, inflammation and immune support.

Gua sha is a medical treatment in Traditional Chinese Medicine and has been used throughout the world by different cultures for thousands of years. Gua means to ‘rub’ or ‘press stroke’. Sha describes the circulatory congestion underlying the surface of the affected body area. Sha also describes the red dots (petechiae) that appear on the skin surface after applying gua sha treatment. Pain or stiffness are symptoms of obstruction to blood circulation and are referred to as congestion or circulatory stagnation within the body tissue. A smooth round-edged hand tool is used in gua sha treatment to rub the affected area of the body to promote movement and stimulate blood circulation. Repeated press strokes are applied on the surface of the skin until red dots begin to appear. This coloring will fade within a few days. The rate at which the coloring fades displays important diagnostic information on the extent of the condition. The sensation of gua sha is not painful or uncomfortable and does not damage the skin.

Indications for Gua Sha Treatment:

  • Pain that is fixed, persistent or reoccurring
  • Muscle spasms
  • Pain that is felt on palpation or when pressing the affected area
  • Muscle and joint injury and strain
  • Numbness
  • Radiculopathy (radiating pain or numb sensation)
  • Internal organ disease
  • Acute sickness – Fever, nausea, vomiting, coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath

* Research has shown gua sha causes the microcirculation of surface tissue to increase 4 times the rate pre-measured before gua sha treatment (Nielsen et al. 2007) and can reduce inflammation and stimulate the immune system (Braun et al. 2011; Chan et al. 2011). Gua sha upregulates heme-oxygenase-1(HO-1), that acts to reduce internal organ inflammation, for example, in cases of asthma, hepatitis and liver disease.

** Medical Definition: Gua Sha is an instrument-assisted therapy using unidirectional press-stroking of a lubricated area of body surface that intentionally creates transitory therapeutic petechiae representing extravasation of blood in the subcutis.

Medical Terms:

  • Extravasation – blood cells are moved outside of blood vessels into the surrounding tissue
  • Petechiae (‘sha’)- small red dots respresenting signs of extravasation without damage to capillary blood vessels (<2mm diameter)
  • Ecchymosis – small red dots or petechiae merge together into larger patches as blood is being reabsorbed by capillary blood vessels (1 cm or larger)

Are you interested in learning the therapeutic technique of Gua Sha?

I am currently offering classes on proper gua sha techniques to professionals who would like to use gua sha as an adjunct therapy. Please use the contact information to inquire about the details.


* ** Source: Dr. Arya Nielsen.

Photo Credit: “Acupuncture chart 300px” by UnknownImagery From the History of Medicine(original in Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.