What is a gua sha? - Benefits
What is a gua sha?
Gua sha, or 刮痧, directly translates to “scratch” and “sand” (here, the sand refers to the raised redness on the skin instead of actual sand). “‘Sha’ is caused by the bacteria or virus toxins, which break the capillaries and form hyperemia areas, or spots in the skin or mucus, and form sand-like scattered or condensed areas,”.
The sand analogy stemmed from the act of performing gua sha, where technicians gently scrape the skin and see tiny dots under the skin emerge; these little granules resemble pieces of sand, which led to their name, Wang elaborated. After applying gua sha, it is common for users to experience redness or tenderness (a sign of blood renewal), but those effects will subside within a few days.
And like many words in the Chinese language, the characters that make up “gua sha” provide insight into what the practice is, as Lee shared. “The Chinese character for ‘Gua’ (刮) is composed of the character for ‘tongue’ on the left and ’knife’ on the right. The Chinese character for ‘Sha’ (痧) is composed of ’illness’ or ’disease’ on top and ’sand’ on the bottom,”
As a treatment in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), gua sha utilizes a solution (face oil, vaseline or water) and a smooth material (jade plates, metal plates and even spoons) to stimulate a specific area of the body.
What are the benefits of gua sha?
While records of gua sha usage started emerging in the Ming Dynasty, it is still a commonly used TCM technique today. Practitioners have found it helpful for alleviating pain as well as increasing circulation and energy flow. And while there have been many Chinese studies regarding the efficacy of gua sha, it is only recently that American researchers have begun publishing their own findings. Among those listed above, gua sha also helps:
Promote blood circulation. “From a Chinese medicine perspective, the Tai Yin meridians (composed of the lung and spleen) and Yang Ming meridians (composed of the large intestines and the stomach) are responsible for your skin's overall health,” said Lee. “When you gently scrape the skin on your face with your gua sha tool, what you are doing is stimulating your Yang Ming meridians. You are also sending your body a signal that this area needs more blood circulation.”
Improve fine lines and wrinkles. Gua sha “can temporarily improve the appearance for the newly and very gentle ones,” Wang said. However, she noted that “for long-standing wrinkles, gua sha should not be the first choice.”
Promotes lymphatic drainage. Gua sha can eliminate fluid build-up, which can in turn reduce puffiness, experts said.
Relieves tension from muscles. Experts noted that by applying pressure with a gua sha tool regularly, users can untangle knotted areas and release built-up muscular tension.