► What is Gua Sha Treatment?

What is Gua Sha

Gua sha is a manual medical treatment which has been used throughout Asia for centuries (probably thousands of years).

How to Pronounce Gua Sha?

Chinese characters 刮痧 (gua sha) are pronounced as “gwa shah”.

What does Gua Sha Mean?

Gua 刮 means ‘to scrape, to shave’.

Sha 痧 is a word which describes a “pathogenic energy”, or in modern language the blood congestion in superficial tissues that accumulates in zones where the patient may feel toughness and pain. Sha also means those little red dots that are raised from applying Gua sha.

what is gua sha

When Gua is applied, sha shows up as small red dots called ‘petechiae’ and the pain starts to fade out. Very quickly, the small red dots fade into echimotic patches (blended reddishness). The sha fades out completely in 2-3 days after guasha procedure. The Sha’s color and how quickly it fades gives important information about illness. Pain relief may go on even after the petechia is entirely gone.

Benefits of Gua Sha

There are plenty of the benefits of Gua sha:

· Encourages circulation to the organs, muscles, and tissues directly under the area which is press-stroked, which is seen in instant effect on coughing

· Reduces inflammation

Research has discovered that Gua sha scraping leads to a four-fold increase in microcirculation in surface tissue (Nielsen et al. 2007) and can reduce inflammation (Braun et al. 2011; Chan et al. 2011). The patient feel instant positive changes in pain and stiffness.

· It can resolve pain and spasms

· Stimulates the immune system

Because Gua sha scraping imitates sweating, it can help to resolve fever. Gua sha, being an adaptogenic technique, warms the patient who feels too cold, cools the patient who feels too warm, while reducing anxiety and relaxing tension.

What is Gua Sha Used for?

Acupressurists and practitioners of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) think of using Gua sha for digestive and upper respiratory problems, for any disorder where there is a discomfort or pain, and any condition where palpation shows there is sha.

Gua sha scraping is often combined with acupuncture for issues that acupuncture only fails to address. After procedure, the patient is instructed to protect the area which was scraped from cold, wind and direct sun until the sha disappears. Moderate eating and drinking a lot of water is also advised.

A heavy workout is prohibited.


An astounding curative results of gua sha scraping which patients and therapists can observe almost always (facial techniques, for example, are an exception) instill trepidation in others because of the ‘look’ of the temporary therapeutic petechiae commonly misinterpreted as bruising.

Gua sha scraping does not injure or harm in other way a patient. Red ecchymosis is ‘mistaken’ for bruising caused by trauma or injury.
Bruising is quite definite medical term. Bruising occurs in case of trauma, injury or blow that causes bleeding from damage to capillaries and vessels. It takes weeks to months to heal and/or completely disappear.

On the other hand, there is no injury with Gua sha scraping. What one can observe, is seeping from capillaries, which is initial and transient with ecchymosis fading out in days.

Sha is also not a hematoma. Hematoma is a localized swelling filled with blood resulting from a break in a blood vessel. But sha are not the size of hematomas.

However, we can find a term in a medical glossary which corresponds to sha most closely. Linear petechiae and ecchymosis are small crimson, purple, red, or livid spots on the skin due to extravasation of blood.  Ecchymosis indicates passage of blood into subcutaneous tissue marked by discoloration. However, sha is not related to the morbidities which are typically  associated with petechiae or  ecchymosis.

Making a conclusion, sha is a therapeutic blood extravasation resulting in temporary petechiae, maculae and ecchymosis. Or simply put: sha represents ‘transient therapeutic petechiae’.
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