What Chinese Medicine Teaches us about Gua Sha

Gua Sha MassageGua sha is a type of Chinese medicine treatment that uses scraping along the body’s meridian channels as well as various acupressure points to move stagnant blood and lymph from the subcutaneous fascia. Typically, an object such as a round-soft edge stone or a scraping device that resembles a shoe insert is scraped repeatedly throughout these points, causing stagnation in the body to come to the surface of the skin. This stagnation is considered to cause energy blockages in the body and when removed, can help rid the body of toxins leading to colds, heat strokes and various other illnesses.

How it Works

As the body is scraped, petechial rises to the surface of the skin. Scraping helps the body metabolize and get rid of cellular waste in addition to promoting new blood and cells. Depending on the severity of the stagnation, the body will react with slightly red marks all the way to a black, purplish tone that is considered “Sha.” This sha literally means a sort of stagnation/congestion and “Gua” means to scrape, so literally the practice means to scrape out congestion of the body.

Gua sha can be thought of as an internal body massage in that like massages used along muscles, the body is able to cure itself of kinks affecting health. Internal body energy flow is considered important for the body’s regulation and movement of energy for promoting overall health. Stagnation is thought to be a key factor that causes people to become sick from a Chinese medicine standpoint.


Gua sha stretches the area of fascia. If certain areas in the body are tight then the fascia can become clogged, resulting in discomfort or sickness to internal organs. Stretching out fascia promotes circulation and internal organ health for revitalizing the body’s energy.

A person can also see immediate effect if they are experiencing muscle soreness. Tissues linked with muscles that are experiencing discomfort can be healed through gua sha, as certain abrasions to the body cause internal stagnation to occur aside from the outer appearances they produce such as swelling.

Chinese doctors also say Gua sha stimulate the immune system and can help balance heat in the body. Heat regulation in the body is important as in the summer it can rise excessively due to high temperatures and dehydration while in the winter declines too quickly due to lower temperatures.

We have tried Gua Sha and swear by it. Here are the benefits we have seen that are also claimed from Chinese doctors:

  1. Helps relieve effects from heat strokes.

Heat strokes are a major problem for people living in warm climates and the body’s internal energy can overheat. Gua sha helps balance this energy to let the body cool off.

  1. Headaches.

In some cases headaches may be the result of soreness in the neck and shoulders, so loosening these areas through Gua sha and massage can have a direct effect on relieving oneself of this pain.

  1. Back pain.

Most back pain comes from improper posture but this improper posture can have some long-term effects on the body internally despite massage and stretching. In order to reduce inflammation and soreness produced inside muscle tissues that may lead to reoccurring pain, Gua sha can be used.

  1. Low energy.

People who feel tired or exhausted all the time may be suffering from an internal stagnation and thus the practice is often considered to have a positive effect on the body.

  1. Jet lag.

The body’s energy circulation gets out of swing due to time differences and Gua sha can help alleviate exhaustion produced.

Does it hurt?

This depends on the doctor you see. If you see a Chinese doctor in China that has dozens of patients waiting in line then the doctor’s job will be to cure you as fast as possible. In doing so they spare no mercy at how fast they scrape and do so with a lot of pressure, which causes many people to feel uncomfortable throughout the practice.

However, if you visit a Western practitioner or go to a massage parlor in Asia that also specializes in these services they take their time. Typically, oil is added to one’s back beforehand to smooth everything out and the assistant will scrape at a slower pace with reduced pressure but over a longer period of time. This is more tolerable and does not cause pain.

Gua Sha Looks Brutal. Are You Sure The Scrapes Go Away?

Yes. Even though your back looks like you have been dragged across the cement on a hot summer day while not wearing a shirt, this does not reflect the results you would see from an abrasion such as a scrape or scab. What you see from Gua sha is the internal rise of energy and not an external scrape or bruise. Your back will look terrible for a few days but the scary look will go away.