Otherwise known in the west as "scraping", in China and parts of Southeast Asia, Gua Sha is a popular and effective method of curing a number of diseases. The term "Gua" means, "to scrape." Like Acupunture, Acupressure and Qigong, Gua Sha works along meridian lines, the pathways in which energy (Qi) and blood circulate.
"According to Chinese medicine, when external coldness or negative energy invades the body a disease develops. Thus people will have some physical discomfort such as dizziness, vomiting and pain. Gua sha can stimulate blood flow and remove coldness, negative energy, toxic-heat and lymphatic fluid from the body through the skin. Through the process, more blood serum is produced, thus improving the body's immune system."
"Sha" refers to the sudden attack of illness such as sunstroke and dry cholera during the summer and autumn seasons. It also refers to rashes. The term "Gua" means, "to scrape." Before the actual Gua Sha treatment begins, liquid medicine is rubbed on the painful area or acupoints to stimulate blood circulation in the body. The therapist then scrapes the skin with a jade or horn blade from top to bottom according to the direction of blood flow. Some blood capillaries break and release the red blood cell, hemoglobin. Such stimulation can promote blood circulation and remove obstruction in the collateral and toxins from the body, which then relieves pain. Though red, purple or black bruises appear after the scraping, during the treatment, the patient rarely feels any pain.
Do not scrape over areas where you have skin irritations, broken skin, ulcers, allergic skin conditions, boils.
Do not use over the lower back or abdomen of pregnant women.
Gua Sha Feedback
06/27/2008: Katrina from Olympia, WA: "My first introduction of Gua Sha comes from what I'm reading here at Earth Clinic. I'm very interested. Thank you. Through additional Google searching, I found the following link. It's just further information on how it works, who should avoid it, how often to do it, and how. http://www.healthtraditions.com.au/uploads/Gua sha (Lantern 4-2).pdf. Earth Clinic, a million thanks for being here."
[YEA] 04/06/2008: Judith from South Amana, IA: "I have had a lot of experience using Gua Sha as a massage therapist and nurse, since first being introduced to it by a Naturopath over ten years ago. Since then, I've talked with many acupuncturists and healers who also use it. I was told that Gua Sha means 'red sands' because of the red, gritty tint the skin gets after treatment.
Its most common use is for treating muscle spasms - especially those nasty ones along the neck and between the shoulder blades that cause headaches. Gua Sha is simply the fastest and most effective way to release these kinds of spasms - and - you can treat yourself easily. The simplest method is to use regular vaseline - rub a layer on the painful area, then take the lid - which should be large and have a rounded edge - and scrape IN ONE DIRECTION (do not scrape back and forth), vigorously, using a bit of pressure (so it is slightly uncomfortable). You should soon see reddish-purple dots forming on the skin. This is called 'sup' and contains many toxins including lactic acid. It is the breakup of this lactic acid that will release the muscle spasm, almost instantaneously. Keep rubbing until no more 'sup' surfaces. Be forewarned - it can look like a huge hickey and be quite shocking to see what looks like huge purple bruises on the skin. But it is actually painless, and most remarkably, the muscle spasm will be gone for good. The purple coloring will mostly be gone the next day.
I've also used various kinds of oils instead of vaseline, but they are not thick enough to prevent irritation of the skin. You want to prevent scraping on the skin itself - rather you are 'milking' the surface layer of the skin; milking out all the toxins in the muscle fibers and connective tissue. A thick layer of vaseline works well. If you can't find a nice rounded tin lid, a spoon will work if the edges are not sharp. Look for something that you can hold in your hand, has a smooth edge and it strong enough to withstand the pressure.
I have used this successfully on many cases of frozen shoulder and 'crick' necks - the results are almost miraculous. Acupuncturists use it as an alternative to cupping - it has a similar effect of raising the toxins to the surface to be released.
Asians use it frequently as home remedies for a variety of illnesses. The most common is to treat muscle aches from fevers. I was once involved in a child protective case (I was a public health nurse), where an immigrant Vietnamese family were being falsely accused of child abuse because the public school teacher found what looked like bruises all over the child's arms and legs. I testified on behalf of the family, educating the judge and jurors (and the teacher!) on the use of Gua sha in Asian culture.
Try it on simple muscle spasms first - just remember to scrape in one direction and provide plenty of lubrication on the skin. Over time, you will learn how much pressure and how long to scrape. Then try it for fevers and other problems. Its one of the greatest remedies around!"
[YEA] 02/05/2008: Daved from Venice, Calif: "Love the Gua Sha. I am a rock climber and I have severely strained my hands over the years. I would feel my pulse in my hands at night, every pulse painful. With no end to the pain, with other methods my chiropractor Brother in law said I needed a Gua Sha. I tried his and it kinda worked... I got my own on ebay and I got rid of all the stiffness and pain. I have also fixed my nerve damaged areas due to ski accident. Love the Gua Sha. Daved"
[YEA] 10/03/2007: Meg from Lome, Togo: "Hi again! "Scraping" is another remedy I discovered works amazingly well, but it can be used for many things. I am not sure I can explain it better than the page I first read about it so here is the link: (look for the section on "scraping") [http://www.planetherbs.com/articles/barefoot.html] I have used this myself to remove the pain from my feet at the end of each day of walking (I undertook a walking trip all the way from Cherbourg to Biarritz in France) and I have passed this tip along to others who have used it on sore and aching arms/backs/legs etc. with great success. I have not had any occasion to try it for the other purposes given on that source site, such as fevers or other illness, though."