The Practice of Chinese Medicine: Gua Sha
Gua Sha is a method used to move stagnant blood and lymph from the subcutaneous fascia. It’s a history old technique where a round, smooth-edged tool is used to repeatedly stroke over an area of the body to bring up stagnant blood and lymph to the surface of the skin, which allows the body to metabolize and kind of get rid of cellular waste much more quickly to promote new, fresh blood and production of new cells in that area. Stagnation is basically when things get stuck. Optimally, we want blood to be flowing smoothly in our body. We want it to be of a certain consistency. We want it to have certain nutrients in it and to just be flowing, smoothly. If there is Sha or Sha, that refers to the congestion of blood and lymph that refers to some people talk of it as toxins, but that’s sort of the stagnated blood and lymph.
If there is Sha in a person you will see these little petechiae, little dots come to the surface. Those may remain for up to 3 to 5 days and then they fade. The benefits of Gua Sha are quite vast. If there’s any kind of pain a person is experiencing and you Gua Sha really over the area of pain, if it is muscles that are affected or the connective tissue that’s affected people often feel a very immediate relief from that pain. If there’s tightness in the area, people often feel a very immediate release of that tightness. In addition to promoting circulation, helping to rid the body of stagnation of blood and lymph the technique of Gua Sha also stretches the fascia, so if areas are tight the fascia is actually getting stretched. There are lots of theories about fascia and its effects on the whole body, including the internal organs.
If a person is in pain, Gua Sha can be very beneficial for helping to break up the stagnation that is one of the reasons why they have pain. If a person is unwell, if their immune system is down acupuncture can help to stimulate their immune system. If a person has a headache it can help to either, if the headache is due to deficiency the Gua Sha may help to stimulate the flow of energy to the head. Or, if there’s excessive energy shooting up to the head the Gua Sha can help to subdue and bring down that excess of energy. If someone has a fever Gua Sha is a great way to bring down the fever. At the same time if someone is cold, Gua Sha can help to warm the person, so Gua Sha is considered very, like an adaptogen in the sense that it brings things back into balance, so it can cool off a person who’s hot. It can warm up a person whose cold.
It stimulates the immune system and this is one of the reasons why it’s done when someone has a cold or flu is that it kind of kick-starts the immune system and people often feel an immediate relief or a much quicker resolution from their cold and flu. When doing Gua Sha just like with acupuncture, while it is dealing with the flesh of the person it’s also dealing with vibrations, so by stroking and having this petechiae come up that action seems to have effects and it could be through vibrations all the way down through to the internal organs. It can even affect the bones underneath it, so there is, also, that, “We don’t know how,” type of effect that the Gua Sha has on all the structures underlying it.