All About Gua Sha Therapy- A Lesser Known Tool in an Acupuncturist’s Toolkit

Chinese medicine includes several effective, although less well-known, healing therapies that are applied to the surface of the body, impacting the skin, muscles, joints, and soft tissues. Such skin therapies can help alleviate many health problems, including chronic pain, common colds and sore muscles.

Gua sha is one of these healing skin techniques, where a patient’s skin is stimulated by rubbing a tool over an area of the body, using massage oil for comfort. Gua sha is also known around the world as coining, scraping, or spooning, which is a reference to the various tools that can be used for the treatment.

Gua sha translates to “rub sand”, which refers to the small (temporary) bruise marks that results from the treatment, which look like grains of sand. The marks are metabolic waste and blood that have been freed from the tissue and small capillaries. Marks generally disappear within two to three days.

This technique helps reduce inflammation, muscle tightness and pain, and fever, while increasing healthy blood circulation in the area. Research has also shown that gua sha increases immune system function, reduces internal organ inflammation to reduce symptoms of issues like asthma and liver disease, and can help reduce various symptoms of perimenopausal syndrome.

Gua sha is usually performed on a person’s back, neck, arms and legs. Sometimes, it is used gently on the face as part of an “acupuncture facial.” Your practitioner will work with you to ensure your comfort, and that the amount of pressure being used is of the proper intensity.

Gua sha is not suitable for every person. If you recently had surgery, are taking blood thinners, have a blood clotting disorder, have deep vein thrombosis, or have an infection or wound that isn’t healed, you should not have this technique. Lastly, please know that your practitioner will follow all standard infection control practices and precautions to protect your safety.

(written by Christine)