Gua Sha – Scraping Away The Pain

Jennifer Poplar performing Gua ShaGua Sha isn’t only an important part of my practice, it’s an important part of my personal self-care tool kit. I use it frequently whenever I’ve got a stubborn “owie” that needs attention and as a regular ritual to keep me at the top of my game.

What is Gua Sha?

Gua Sha is a traditional East Asian healing technique that has been around for thousands of years.It’s still in wide practice today throughout China, Vietnam (where it’s known as Cao Gio) and Indonesia and is gaining popularity here in North America thanks to some high profile “celebrity sightings” and the fact that it WORKS!

The technique involves using a hard, smooth edge tool (I prefer using white quartz) to stroke the skin at the site of injury, imbalance or congestion. Your skin is typically lubricated with an oil (coconut or castor), and the area being “Gua Sha’d” is stroked several times in 4″ – 6″ long strokes following acupuncture meridians until a redness (or “sha” as it’s traditionally known) is produced.

Check out the video demonstration of Gua Sha below:

What are the benefits of Gua Sha?

Gua Sha has an anti-inflammatory and immune protective effect that lasts up to several days after a single treatment. I’ve used it to treat:
  • Pain
  • Inflammation
  • Back & Neck Pain
  • Colds & Flue
  • Migranes
  • Nausea
  • And range of motion issues

AND… Contrary to what some naysayers would have you believe…

There’s a growing body of scientific research to back it up!

Since 2005, there have been over 120 research studies on the effects of Gua Sha, including one at Harvard in 2009 that concluded Gua Sha had anti-inflammatory and immunological benefits. There’s even been studies done on the effect of Gua Sha on liver inflammation in people with hepatitis B.

Here’s what Dr. Arya Neilson PhD of the Beth Israel Medical Centre in New York (and one of the leading researchers in the field) had to say when asked about the evidence for Gua Sha’s effectiveness:

“We found a 400% increase in microperfusion (surface circulation of blood) for 7.5 minutes following gua sha, and a significant increase for the full 25 minutes following treatment that was studied.

Gua sha’s therapeutic petechiae represents blood cells that have extravasated in the capillary bed, and measure as a significant increase in surface microperfusion . As this blood is reabsorbed, the breakdown of hemoglobin upregulates HO-1, CO, biliverdin and bilirubin, which are anti-inflammatory and cytoprotective .

Studies show the anti-inflammatory effect of gua sha has a therapeutic impact in inflammatory conditions, such as active chronic hepatitis, where liver inflammation indicates organ breakdown that over time can lead to premature death. The physiology of HO-1 may also explain gua sha’s anti-inflammatory effect in other responsive clinical conditions, such as fever, cough, asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, mastitis , gastritis, musculoskeletal and other painful conditions presenting as neck pain, back pain, migraine, postherpetic neuralgia, and others.”

Check out what else Dr. Neilson has to say about Gua Sha:

Pacific College of Oriental Medicine Press Release

Are there any side effects to Gua Sha treatment?

The treatment itself will cause your skin to become red and slightly tender. This usually dissipates within 24 hours.

Who shouldn’t get Gua Sha treatments?

You should probably wait until any of the following skin conditions have cleared up before we begin Gua Sha treatments (We’ll just stick to other modalities like traditional acupuncture):

  • sunburn
  • rash
  • blisters
  • skin wounds and cuts 

Does Gua Sha Hurt?

Gua Sha treatments typically do not hurt, but some people find it mildly uncomfortable. This IS a healing technique and it’s not going to feel like a relaxing afternoon at the spa. However, the majority of people find it less painful than a deep tissue massage.

Who should get Gua Sha treatments?

Everybody who wants to live a long, active, healthy life of course! 🙂

But seriously. If you’ve got:

  • Frozen shoulder
  • Neck pain
  • Back pain
  • Migranes
  • Mobility and range of motion issues
  • Chronic inflammation

Then you should consider a treatment and see what you think about the results… I’m convinced you’ll be impressed!

If you live anywhere in East Hants or Halifax Regional Municipality including Enfield, Elmsdale, Fall River, Halifax, Bedford and Dartmouth, my clinic is only a hop, skip & jump away so…

Call Jennifer to book your Gua Sha treatment today:

Or Use our online scheduler to book your appointment right now by clicking the button below:

What do people think about their Gua Sha treatments?

Here’s what some people had to say about their experience with Gua Sha:


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