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Gua Sha Massage 101: What is Gua Sha Massage?

Health & Wellness
Last Updated Aug 21, 2020

Did you know that using massage can help strengthen the immune system and prevent the occurrence of several illnesses.  Gua Sha massage is a type of massage therapy that can help with this. Read this article to find out more about this.

What is gua sha massage?

In Gua Sha massage, the terms "gua" means "to scrape" or "scraping", and "sha" is a term used to describe the millet-like redness that may occur after the treatment has been performed.  Interesting enough, Gua Sha massage technically is not a massage at all. Gua Sha is rather the name of the instrument being used during the treatment. This therapy can be performed on its own or it may be used in conjunction with another type of massage.  Another term for this therapy is "spooning". The most common scraping instrument being used is the buffalo horn, which has a comb-like shape – without the teeth. Chinese soup spoons or jar lids can also be used.

The Gua Sha, or instrument, is also used because the hands alone may not be enough to disperse heat, increase oxygen to the target area, and stimulate blood flow in the way that the Gua Sha can.  In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the buffalo horn has cold properties, and, therefore, it is effective in helping to eliminate heat from the body.

Gua sha massage benefits

Gua Sha massage can be used for several things.  It is useful for treating muscle pains and aches.  Because it releases heat from the body, it can treat dizziness, chills, heatstroke, and sunstroke.  Also, it is able to prevent or stop colds before they occur.

How to gua sha massage

The stroke techniques used in Gua Sha massage go only in a downward motion.  The instrument is drawn across the skin where an imbalance or injury is, and a reddening of the skin, known as "Sha", is observed.  It is said that the reddening is a good response and brings an instant and lasting benefit of reducing coldness, tightness, inflammation, and pain from the superficial and deeper layers of the body.  The treatment is performed from the head down, which starts from the neck before going down to the chest, back, arms and shoulders, legs, and ankles. The instrument is used more heavily on areas that are stronger and thicker-skinned, and more lightly on areas that are not as strong.

The therapy is not painful, as the occurrence of reddening of the skin is simply the toxins and heat coming to the surface.  However, this therapy should not be received by people who are suffering from sunburn or having excessive skin disorders.

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Originally published on Jun 25, 2008

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