What Is Gua Sha?

by Holistic_Health

Many Westerners are just now finding out about this form of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Gua sha is most commonly used to treat acute or chronic musculoskeletal pain, but it can also be used to treat a wide range of other health conditions. Gua sha is generally considered to be safe when performed by a trained practitioner. However, there are some potential side effects, such as bruising, swelling, and soreness, that can occur. Gua sha is said to be beneficial for a wide range of health conditions, including:

*muscle pain and stiffness
*joint pain
*gastrointestinal issues
*respiratory problems

Gua Sha
Gua Sha

Gua Sha Therapy

Gua Sha is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Although it began in China, it spread throughout Asia and eventually to the West. Sometimes it is referred to as Chinese ‘folk’ medicine because people practice it on themselves as a sort of first aid. It is so commonly used that it is not taught in medical school. Gua Sha is the Chinese equivalent of chicken soup.

Gua means ‘to rub’ and sha refers to the red marks on the skin that appear after a treatment. To be specific, lotion may be applied to the area to be treated and a smooth tool is repeatedly scraped against the skin.


Traditionally the tool is made of a natural material like Water Buffalo Horn, ceramic spoons, or jade. Nowadays some tools are plastic or metal, but the main requirement is for it to be thin and have a rounded edge so it does not break the skin.


What Is Gua Sha?

Gua Sha Tools

Gua Sha Therapy

Gua sha is an ancient Chinese healing practice that involves using a smooth, flat stone to massage the skin. This process helps to break up stagnation and boost circulation. Gua sha can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including headaches, muscle pain, and fatigue. It is also said to help improve immunity and overall health. Gua sha is a safe and effective alternative to conventional medicine.

This treatment is not painful at all. It is also recommended for people who store stress in their neck and shoulders. When the red marks begin to fade, take this as a good sign that your lymphatic system is working and moving fluid through your tissues.

Gua Sha may be used in conjunction with other forms of TCM like acupuncture or cupping. It’s reported to be helpful for hypertension, chronic pain, arthritis, and many types of joint or back pain. If you’re seeing a chiropractor you may find that your adjustments last longer when you combine them with Gua Sha.


The BIG "Little" Gua Sha Book: Learning (and Loving) the Ancient Healing Art of Gua Sha Paperback

Gua Sha Reading
The BIG "Little" Gua Sha Book: Learning (and Loving) the Ancient He...

Cao Gia

In Vietnam, the practice is called ‘Cao Gia’. It is performed by rubbing a coin against the back, chest, head, neck, or shoulders. It’s interesting to note that during the 1970s the telltale red marks on Vietnamese-American children were thought to be the result of child abuse, and some parents were mistakenly arrested.


To the untrained eye, ‘sha’ may look like road rash or a bicycle scrape, but the skin has not been bruised. No veins, capillaries, or arteries have been broken.


During the treatment, the body's meridians begin clearing and trapped pockets of fluid (lymph, lactic acid, blood) from a previous injury raise to the surface. Westerners are always surprised when the patient feels better but looks worse.




Gua Sha is not recommended for anyone with  bleeding wounds, open sores, broken bones, or pregnant women during the first trimester. If you have any health conditions you’re concerned about, make sure to ask your practitioner ahead of time.

Updated: 09/27/2022, Holistic_Health
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What do you think about gua sha? Is it something you would try?

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Holistic_Health on 10/20/2011

@marciag Yeah, I only just heard about it. It's one of those new 5,000 year old remedies :)

marciag on 10/20/2011

First time I'm hearing about this treatment type. I know about acupuncture, acupressure and other Eastern alternative treatments, but this one is really new to me.

Holistic_Health on 10/15/2011

Yeah, I use the tennis balls in a sock trick too. Thanks for commenting :)

happynutritionist on 10/15/2011

Very unusual...I've never heard of this, thanks for teaching me something new. I tend to massage sore and tender spots and if I can't reach them, like on my back, a tennis ball or two is my favorite thing to use. Always have one nearby where I sit on the couch, but the whole red spots thing is so different.

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