Gua Sha means “to extract toxins” and has been used in China for over 2,000 years to alleviate stiffness and pain, bring back mobility and circulation, heal digestive disorders, release toxins and stagnant energy, and generally revitalize the body. It is also known to treat tumors and cysts. Most acupuncturists are trained to use this technique.
During a Gua Sha treatment, strokes are made over your skin with a smooth-edged tool such as polished jade, although an item as simple as a lid from a jar can be used. Gua Sha is done in areas of congestion, tightness, tension, or discomfort on your neck, shoulders, and back, but sometimes on your chest and abdomen. Blood gets released from peripheral capillaries while fluid under your skin is pushed, creating space. Toxic fluid from deep in the tissue rises to the skin’s surface into the space. This causes the skin to turn red or take on the coloration of bruising. It is not bruising though, and clears up in a couple of days. It is actually a welcome sight to see this “Sha” coming to the surface of the skin, because it indicates the release of old, trapped energy. The color of bruising is a sign of healing.
Gua Sha is not painful. Instead there is a sense of relief as the stagnant energy is freed. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the freed energy is also called qi, pronounced “chee” in China. Stagnant qi is associated with pain and areas of oxygen deprivation. In the case of breast disease, Gua Sha is a way to increase oxygen in your tissue while moving stagnant energy and releasing toxins. It is believed that exposing the Sha — indicated by the discoloration that occurs — removes disease from deep within the body.
If you’re in pain, or have recently had surgery or other traumas that have areas of stagnation around them, ask your acupuncturist to “gua sha” you. You’ll be glad you did!