The Benefits Of A Guasha Massage

The Benefits Of A Guasha Massage

Guasha Massage is a natural, alternative therapy that involves stroking the skin to improve circulation. This traditional Chinese healing technique may offer a unique approach to better health, addressing issues like chronic pain.

Using a specially designed instrument made of horn, stone, bone or other materials, along with the appropriate oils for lubrication, the therapists strokes an area of the body, such as the patient’s neck or back. After a few moments the skin begins to turn red, and then a particular kind of marking starts to appear on the skin.

Sometimes called coining, spooning or scraping, Gua sha is defined as instrument-assisted unidirectional press stroking of a lubricated area of the body surface that intentionally creates ‘transitory therapeutic petechiae’ representing extravasation of blood in the subcutis.

– Arya Nielsen, PHD; Gua Sha – A Traditional Technique for Modern Practice (2013)”

Guasha massage is intended to address stagnant energy, called Qi, in the body that in TCM theory is responsible for inflammation. Inflammation is the underlying cause of several conditions associated with chronic pain. Guasha is able to help break up this energy, reduce inflammation, and promote healing.

Fine capillaries (tiny blood vessels) start to give off the petechiae known as Sha in Chinese. This is a good thing. What it does is to release toxins from the blood and greatly stimulate circulation in the area. It also has “an anti-inflammatory and immune protective effect that persists for days following a single Gua sha treatment.” (Nielsen, 2013)

Guasha massage is generally performed on a person’s back, buttocks, neck, arms, and legs. A gentle version of it is also used on the face as a facial technique.

What are the benefits of Guasha massage?

Guasha massage may reduce inflammation, so it’s often used to treat ailments that cause chronic pain, such as arthritis and fibromyalgia, as well as those that trigger muscle and joint pain.

Gua sha may also relieve symptoms of other conditions:

  • Hepatitis B
    Hepatitis B is a viral infection that causes liver inflammation, liver damage, and liver scarring. Research suggests that gua sha may reduce chronic liver inflammation.

    One case study followed a man with high liver enzymes, an indicator of liver inflammation. He was given Guasha, and after 48 hours of treatment he experienced a decline in liver enzymes. This leads researchers to believe that Guasha has the ability to improve liver inflammation, thus decreasing the likelihood of liver damage. More research is underway.

  • Migraine Headaches
    If one’s migraine headaches doesn’t respond to over-the-counter medications, Guasha may help. In one study, a 72-year-old woman living with chronic headaches received Guasha over a 14-day period. Her migraines improved during this time, suggesting that this healing modality may be an effective remedy for headaches.
  • Breast Engorgement
    Breast engorgement is a condition experienced by many breastfeeding women. This is when the breasts overfill with milk. It usually occurs in the first weeks of breastfeeding or if the mother is away from the infant for any reason. Breasts become swollen and painful, making it difficult for babies to latch. This is usually a temporary condition.

    In one study, women were given Guasha from the second day after giving birth up until leaving the hospital. The hospital followed up with these women in the weeks after giving birth and found that many had fewer reports of engorgement, breast fullness, and discomfort. This made it easier for them to breastfeed.

  • Neck Pain
    Guasha massage is also proven effective for remedying chronic neck pain. To determine the effectiveness of this therapy, 48 study participants were split into two groups. One group was given Guasha and the other used a thermal heating pad to treat neck pain. After one week, participants who received Guasha reported less pain compared to the group that didn’t receive Guasha.
  • Tourette Syndrome
    Tourette syndrome involves involuntary movements such as facial tics, throat clearing, and vocal outbursts. According to a case study, Guasha combined with other therapies may have helped to reduce symptoms of Tourette syndrome in the study participant.

    The study involved a 33-year-old male who had Tourette syndrome since the age of 9. He received acupuncture, herbs, Guasha, and modified his lifestyle. After 35 once-a-week treatments, his symptoms improved by 70 percent.

  • Perimenopausal Syndrome
    Perimenopause occurs as women move closer to menopause. Symptoms include:

    • insomnia
    • irregular periods
    • anxiety
    • fatigue
    • hot flashes

    One study, however, found that Guasha reduced symptoms of perimenopause in some women.

    The study examined 80 women with perimenopausal symptoms. The intervention group received 15 minute Guasha treatments once a week in conjunction with conventional therapy for eight weeks. The control group only received conventional therapy.

    Upon completion of the study, the intervention group reported greater reduction of symptoms such as insomnia, anxiety, fatigue, headaches, and hot flashes compared to the control group. Researchers believe Guasha therapy might be a safe, effective remedy for this syndrome.

Getting A Guasha Massage

When conventional therapies don’t improve your symptoms, research suggests that Guasha may be able to provide relief.

This technique may appear straightforward and simple, but it should only be performed by a licensed practitioner of Chinese medicine. This ensures a safe, proper treatment. More research is needed, but there are few risks associated with this massage technique. Using a professional improves the effectiveness of the treatment and reduces the risk of pain or severe bruising from excessive force.

Studies Cited

  1. Braun M, et al. (2001). Effectiveness of traditional Chinese “gua sha” therapy in patients with chronic neck pain: a randomized controlled trial [Abstract]. DOI: 10.1111/j.1526-4637.2011.01053.x
  2. Chan ST, et al. (2011). Guasha-induced hepatoprotection in chronic active hepatitis B: A case study [Abstract]. DOI: 10.1016/j.cca.2011.05.009
  3. Chiu CY, et al. (2008). An experience applying Gua-Sha to help a parturient women with breast fullness [Abstract].
  4. Lee MH, et al. (2017). A single case of Tourette’s syndrome treated with traditional Chinese medicine. DOI: 10.1016/j.jams.2016.12.005
  5. Meng F, et al. (2017). Effect of gua sha therapy on perimenopausal syndrome: a randomized controlled trial [Abstract]. DOI: 10.1097/GME.0000000000000752
  6. Schwickert ME, et al. (2007). Gua Sha for migraine in inpatient withdrawal therapy of headache due to medication overuse [Abstract]. DOI: 10.1159/0000107731