Gua Sha – An Ancient Technique

I often get asked about the tools of Chinese Medicine and how and why they are used. Gua Sha is an ancient technique which often surprises people with its ease of effectiveness and simple application; but what is it and how can it assist me? Below are some answers to these questions.

What is it?

Gua Sha is a non-evasive tool used by Acupuncturists and Chinese Massage therapists; it can be combined with massage or with the insertion of acupuncture needles or can be used as a stand-alone treatment. Gua Sha involves a technique where the skin is scraped and pressed using a gua sha tool, normally made of ceramic, metal or traditionally horn.  The application of gua sha can be on most parts of the body but is normally applied on the neck, shoulders and back at points of tightness, pain or decreased movement.

How can Gua Sha help me?

Gua sha has been shown to increase the surface circulation of blood; this decreases pain and discomfort in the treatment area. It is often applied to areas of the body showing tightness, pain or inflammation, or when there are signs of an acute cold or flu. It has been shown to have an anti-inflammatory effect on the body and has a therapeutic impact in inflammatory conditions such as headache and various pains in area such as the neck, back and shoulders.

Does Gua Sha hurt?

The experience of gua sha can at first feel strange to those who have never had it; once the sensation is normalised the experience can range from pleasant to overwhelming relief as the technique loosens your muscles, increases physical movement and relieves pain. Your practitioner will always adjust the application and strength of gua sha depending on your needs. Remember it is important to always feed back to your practitioner when being treated (in any modality) so they can adjust the strength of treatment so you can have the best possible experience for you.

What are the marks from Gua Sha?

The application of Gua sha brings up small red or sometimes purple petechiae on the skin which are known as ‘sha’. The sha comes up as the old, dead blood cells are released from trapped areas under the skin. These marks can last from a day to a week depending on the individual. Once sha has been released subsequent treatments of gua sha in the same area will not produce the same intensity of marks as the stagnation in the area has reduced.

As always free to contact us for more information or talk to your practitioner about the amazing benefits of gua sha.



British Acupuncture Council, What is Qi? And what is Gua Sha? 

Nielson, A, 2014, Gua sha: A Traditional Technique for Modern Practice, Edition 2, Elsevier Health Sciences

Nielsen, A, The Science of Gua Sha, Pacific College of Oriental Medicine

Nielsen, A, ‘Gua sha’ and the Scientific Gaze: Original Research on an Ancient Therapy in a Call for Discourse in Philosophies of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong Libraries.