Gua Sha

Gua Sha is a traditional healing technique in East Asian medicine. It is used widely in Vietnamese, Indian and Indonesian cultures as well as in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The name Gua Sha is taken from the classical text, The Shang Han Lun, 220 CE and translates to “scraping – bruises”.

In a typical Gua Sha treatment the surface of the body is pressed and stroked with a smooth edged instrument, like a spoon, coin, or egg, to raise therapeutic petechiae. Petechiae, or bruising, appears as small red or purple spots on the skin which is a result of minor bleeding due to broken capillary blood vessels.

Practitioners use Gua Sha to release stagnation, pain and heat that is trapped in the body. By scraping the muscle or meridian, blood flow increases and toxins and heat are released. The amount of bruising or sha present after a treatment clues the practitioner in to how much stagnation is released.

I utilize gua sha therapy in the clinic to reduce pain, increase well-being and reduce stress. At home I use gua sha on my children if they have a fever or are tense in their shoulders (they are always doing gymnastics and jiu jitsu).

Even this past week I had the opportunity to use gua sha to treat my 9 year-old who was suffering from a headache and 104 degree fever. I typically try to avoid NSAIDS and let their fevers run their course.

My treatment included starting with a warm bath and then slowly added cooler water so the temperature dropped slowly as not to give her the shivers. I avoided wetting the hair. After she was dry and clothed I laid her down on the living room floor and had her pull up her shirt to expose her back and neck.

I applied some light oil – I like to use aromatic oils to reduce fevers – like something with a hint of mint or eucalyptus – to her upper back.

Occasionally I use castor oil too which, has immune boosting properties. I then took the lid off of a jelly jar and began doing Gua Sha to her upper back. I held the lid in my right hand and applied short and quick strokes along her upper back.

I spent a lot of time at the area right at the base of her spine scraping the cutaneous skin. In Traditional Chinese medicine the spot below C-7 called Daizhu or DU 14, because of its fever reducing property.

Because she is young I kept the pressure very light and avoided getting a lot of sha or bruising. I spent about 10-minutes on her back and then covered her quickly with a towel and then had her get dressed immediately to avoid catching chill.

Her temperature lowered significantly and her pain was markedly reduced. Her color returned to her face. She reported feeling really calm and relaxed and asked me to do it again!

We continued this treatment 2 x over the next two days until she was back doing cartwheels instead of walking.