Gua Sha is an Oriental medical technique for removing blood stagnation from the surface tissues of the body. This is accomplished by using a smooth flat tool: Asian soup spoons, polished slices of water buffalo horn or coins are traditional choices, but it’s also possible simply to use the side of a smooth metal lid, or a smooth seashell. I have a very beautiful Gua Sha tool – a gift from a friend – that is made of jade.
The “gua” of Gua Sha refers to the scraping action, along the skin, using the Gua Sha tool. Usually massage oil or some other lubricant is first applied to the skin. Areas of the body where this technique is particularly effective include the neck, back, shoulders, hips/buttocks, legs and arms. The practitioner covers – using one of his/her fingers – any moles, scratches or open sores – to avoid scraping these.
The “sha” of Gua Sha refers to the red, blue or purplish marks that come to the surface during a Gua Sha treatment. This is the stagnant blood that had been trapped in the tissues, but now has been released, allowing blood and qi to circulate more freely in those areas. The marks usually disappear within 2-3 days after the treatment.
Like Cupping Therapy Gua Sha is used alongside an acupuncture treatment and tends to be really effective in treating stiff or sore muscles, and is wonderful also for releasing the heat and stagnation (particularly in the upper back, neck and top of shoulders) associated with the common cold. It can also be used as part of a preventative health-care regimen.