gua sha - Gua Sha for Good Health

Aromatherapy, reflexology, acupuncture, or our very own hilot, who hasn’t tried any, if not all?

A good massage makes a relaxing ending to a stressful day at work, after rigorous training in sports, or a tiring workout. Massage techniques are nothing new; in fact they date back to thousands of years as evidenced in Chinese and Egyptian records. 

But have you heard of gua sha, also an ancient Chinese practice? Gua sha utilizes a tool to stroke the skin repeatedly that is said to reap significant health benefits. Sounds like a jade roller? It’s not (and we’ll get to that later). So how is gua sha different from other types of massage?

Gua sha is part of traditional Chinese medicine that literally means to scrape sand. It is also called coining or scraping. As mentioned above, it uses specific flat and curved handheld tools, such as a buffalo horn, a round lid, a coin, or most common nowadays are those especially made in precious stones such as rose quartz and jade. Gua sha can be done on the face and body, such as the arms, legs, back, and buttocks.

To do gua sha, the area must be oiled or lubricated so that the tool can glide easily. After skin preparation, the tool is placed flat against the skin, then “scraped” or stroked slowly in one direction for four to six inches, for three to 10 minutes, depending on the area. On the face, only gentle to medium pressure is applied, then medium to hard pressure for other parts of the body.

Sometimes when gua sha is performed on the body, the medium or hard pressure may cause capillaries to disrupt, producing red or purple marks called petechiae.

Contrary to what petechiae looks like, gua sha should not be painful; in fact, it is a relaxing therapeutic treatment. Gua sha may be performed twice or thrice a week, or if the marks have faded or healed. Symptoms must be relieved, or benefits must be felt after six to eight sessions. It must not be confused with the jade roller, however. Jade rollers, usually performed with special stones modified into a rolling mechanism, also involves gliding the tool on the skin for several strokes per area. It differs in benefits from gua sha, however, as it is best for lymphatic drainage, depuffing, and soothing the skin whereas gua sha offers more than that.

Aside from the tool and technique, it also differs from other massage forms when it comes to benefits. Like most massage techniques that reduce stress, improve circulation, ease pain and fatigue, and remove toxins, gua sha can also address other health issues as well such as acute and chronic pain, while also providing skin benefits.

It is believed that by applying pressure and scraping specific areas, it can unblock the body’s energy called chi or qi, and restore its balance, thereby relieving tension and inflammation. At the same time, the continuous upward stroke can give a glowing, energized appearance, and even lift or define facial contours for some, most especially if gua sha is done regularly. Gua sha is not advised to be performed on injured or bruised areas, sunburnt skin, those with moles or acne, broken skin, or rashes, and also on pregnant women.

Cleaning only requires washing with hot water and soap. Its size and maintenance makes it even more convenient for use by almost anybody.

Gua sha is a natural way to relieve tension and inflammation from the body. It is not an immediate treatment—several sessions must be performed before results may be felt. If after 12 sessions the symptoms have not changed, the treatment option must be modified. At this time, not a lot of studies have been done on its benefits; hence it needs more tests to support them.

Having said this, gua sha is not a substitute for proper medical diagnosis and medication, but with doctor’s guidance, may be done in conjunction with other therapies. While there are a lot of videos that teach how gua sha is done at home or in your convenience, it is best to let an experienced practitioner or therapist perform it first before you try on your own. Now you can scrape your way to good health with gua sha!

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