Gua Sha is part of traditional Chinese medicine, dating back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). It commonly involves using an instrument with a smooth edge to press-stroke or scrape lubricated skin in one direction to produce intentional redness on the skin, known as “sha.” Gua Sha increases the blood circulation and releases stagnant blood and toxins and relieves pain. When more blood and oxygen flow to the area that is treated, the body responds more efficiently and healing can take place. Gua Sha has beneficial anti inflammatory and immune system protective effects and can be useful in a variety of acute and chronic conditions.

The word “Gua” means to scrape or rub. “Sha” refers to the red speckled streaks on the skin that appears after treatment. The stroking motions of Gua Sha — generally not painful — can cause capillaries near the skin surface to bleed, which causes red or purple streaks to appear along the stroke pattern. The streaks disappear in a few days. “Sha” also refers to stagnant blood or Qi that is blocking the proper flow of energy and blood in the meridian or channel.

Most people use Gua Sha as a preventative or as a first-aid treatment for common conditions such as a cold, flu, headache, asthma, bronchitis and both chronic and acute pain. It’s also used to stimulate the immune system, detoxify the body and release fevers as the scraping brings excess heat and toxins to the surface of the skin.

Gua Sha may look alarming the first time you see it, like cupping. However, it is a simple, safe, non-invasive and very effective treatment. It is used to treat many conditions and promote overall health and wellness. I generally will use Gua Sha as an adjunct to an acupuncture treatment when indicated.