What is Gua Sha?
What is Gua Sha?
If you spend any time on beauty blogs, you’ve undoubtedly seen videos of YouTubers scrunching their faces with heart-shaped gemstone tools. So you will be surprised to know what is the name of this technique. gua shaThis is similar to what we use in physical therapy to relieve muscle pain.
To learn more about Gua Sha and how it can help you, read on!
Although gua sha has become somewhat of a fad in the past few years, it has been around for millennia. Tracing back to the 3rd century BC, Gua Sha is a method of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) originally used to direct blood flow.
In TCM, illness is attributed to a disruption in your body’s energy or Qi. Removing that blockage by promoting blood circulation can, by that theory, speed up the body’s natural healing process.
Gua Sha and Physical Therapy
From a physical therapist’s point of view, gua sha is another type of equipment-assisted soft-tissue mobilization technique. We have several variants of these techniques, all under the acronym IASTM.
When you have swollen and stiff muscle knots, mobilizing soft tissues can help promote healing as well as reduce pain. Some practitioners believe that IASTM may also help lengthen muscle fibers and break down scar tissue.
Overall, there is good evidence that gua sha, in the right set of hands, can provide pain relief treatments similar to those we provide in the clinic.
Gua Sha vs Graston Technique
In physical therapy, we have a method that is very similar to Gua Sha, called the Graston Technique., David Graston was a machinist and amateur athlete who, after injuring his knee skiing, became impatient with his recovery. In coordination with physicians and researchers at Ball State University, he developed a set of steel, concave instruments to use on his injury and help speed its healing. Their positive experience has been replicated, validated, and is now patented as the Graston technology. (or simply GT)
Graston’s tenacity is admirable, but fundamentally, his technique is not much different from IASTM or Gua Sha. Instead of a jade rock, a GT practitioner chooses from a set of 6 stainless steel tools, each shaped to fit a particular muscle group or shape.
Practicing GT requires 6 pieces of equipment as well as professional training and certification. But other than these terms, the main difference between Gua Sha and GT is that the former follows traditional Chinese medicine and the latter Western medicine, where the focus is more on muscles and tissue than on blood circulation and qi.
use of gua sha
Whether it’s Gua Sha, Graston TechniqueOr some other IASTM method, tool-assisted massage can help with a variety of ailments.
Traditionally, people used gua sha to reduce the symptoms of cold viruses and heat stroke. Today, however, its primary use is musculoskeletal therapy, reducing inflammation to reduce tension and improve circulation and relieve pain.
Therefore, gua sha can best help people chronic painsuch as arthritis, fibromyalgia, peripheral neuropathy, and even repetitive strain injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
More recently, gua sha has been marketed as a cosmetic technique for facial massage. The idea behind a facial application is that the scraping motion helps reduce swelling and puffiness by draining sluggish lymph. The newly circulated blood then fills the face with youthful vigor – or so goes the promise.
Although gua sha may not be as effective for anti-aging beauty as the retailer would have you believe, its many other benefits have been well supported by research in recent years.
The Research Behind Gua Sha’s Benefits
Under the right touch, gua sha can bring many health benefits. Like any massage, gua sha can reduce muscle tension and help you relax, a necessary antidote to soothe tight muscle knots.
One of the primary reasons people seek Gua Sha is pain relief—a benefit that is becoming more and more empirically apparent. In this 2017 study, patients with chronic low back pain used either a hot pack or gua sha therapy to treat their pain. Although both sets of patients experienced reduced pain and improved flexibility (yes!), the effects were stronger and longer-lasting in the patients who received gua sha therapy.
Research suggests that gua sha may also help prevent muscle injuries. For example, patients with stiffness in their ankle flexion (dorsiflexion) experienced a greater range of motion after regular gua sha treatment. Improved flexibility can reduce the risk of injury later on.
Another 2017 study of 75 women suggests that gua sha may help treat symptoms. perimenopausal syndromesuch as insomnia, fatigue and headache. Numerous case studies also praise the wonders of gua sha, from treating hepatitis B and Tourette’s syndrome to alleviating migraines and heel pain.
In regards to the popular beauty claims of gua sha, there is a major study to support them. Participants in this 2018 study were given a 5-minute facial massage on one cheek. The side that received the massage showed better facial movement for up to 10 minutes afterwards. These results became even stronger in the longer term, with participants showing improved vasodilation in their cheeks during the 5-week treatment.
As a side note, in this last study the researchers used an facial roller to massage them. So let’s now take a closer look at the tools of Gua Sha.
gua sha equipment
When gua sha was the best kept secret of Chinese farmers in antiquity, there was no standard set of tools. A spoon, coin, animal bone, or simply a hard copy of the individual’s self may serve the purpose of therapeutic scraping.
Fast forward a few thousand years, and marketing schemes now depict gua sha with gemstone tools in concave shapes and crystal colors to symbolize the spiritual qualities of the healing process. Today’s practitioners commonly use jade, rose quartz, obsidian and amethyst to conduct their massages.
Other than its durability, there is no advantage of using one gem over the other from a PT perspective. In fact, because gems are porous, they are more likely than non-porous materials like stainless steel to harbor bacteria. Therefore, if you use a gemstone tool, be sure to wash it after every use – especially if you experience any bleeding.
Gua Sha vs Jade Roller
After a brief internet search you might think that gua sha is synonymous with jade rolling. Although they are both from traditional Chinese medicine and claim similar results, gua sha and jade rolling differ in a few important ways.
First, the hardware: A Gua Sha instrument is a piece of material. A jade roller consists of a metal device affixed to one or two rotating stones.
Gua Sha equipment can deliver a firm massage to all parts of the body, from the large muscle groups to the soft tissues of the neck and face. Its history goes back to the 3rd century BC and was popular among the working class.
Jade rolling, on the other hand, is generally only for the face, and has a less well-known history. Several articles (including this one now) imply that jade rolling was a beauty regiment of 17th-century Chinese royalty.
Because jade rolling is fast and easy to administer, it is the tool of choice for gua sha facials. However, without the clefts or divots of a free-standing gua sha tool, the roller is limited in the type and intensity of facial massage it can give.
Luckily, you don’t have to choose between the two. Many facial kits come with both Gua Sha Equipment what else is called jade rollerwhether it is made of jade or not.
What does “Gua Sha” mean?
According to TCM, the name “gua sha” refers to the scraping motion (“gua”) employed to lift blockages (“sha”) that are obstructing your qi. In fact, the term “sha” is also used to describe red spots resulting from gua sha sessions, which Western practitioners call petechiae,
Is Gua Sha Legal?
Although its cosmetic anti-aging claims may be exaggerated, gua sha is a legitimate type of soft-tissue mobilization used in PT clinics to reduce inflammation, reduce pain, and promote healing .
does it hurt?
This depends on how well you tolerate other types of instrument-assisted soft-tissue mobilization. The scraping and pulling motion of the gua sha tool can cause redness and even bruising or bleeding. But it shouldn’t be painful—just a little uncomfortable. Furthermore, those feelings of discomfort from the increased blood flow afterward should be erased and replaced with relaxation again.
What are the risks of gua sha?
Because mild bruising often occurs, gua sha is not recommended for people taking blood thinners. It is not ideal for anyone prone to blood clots, varicose veins or deep vein thrombosis. Additionally, gua sha equipment can harbor pathogens and, if bleeding occurs, transmit bloodborne disease. So make sure you only get gua sha from a professional—under strict hygiene standards—and follow regular cleaning practices for your own equipment at home.
Can I do Gua Sha at home?
You don’t need to visit a PT clinic or schedule expensive facials to reap the benefits of gua sha. look online and you’ll find a lot Gua Sha Equipment Video tutorials available for sale, as well as free.
For how long should I do Gua Sha?
For best results, keep facial sessions short but frequent: 3-5 minutes a day, 3 days a week. On the other hand, a full body gua sha treatment by a trained practitioner can last anywhere from 20–60 minutes.