Gua Sha Therapy: Natural and Holistic Health Benefits for the Body, Face, and Mind
What is Gua Sha?
Gua Sha is an ancient form of therapeutic treatment invented in China almost 2,000 years ago to treat conditions such as heatstroke, breathing problems, chronic pain, and even the common cold. The treatment involves scraping or press-stroking motions using a tool, often made of a metal, jade or acrylic to scrape the surface of the skin.
This therapy can instill healing properties in the body and face along with numerous other benefits that are derived from the improved circulation Gua Sha provides.
The skin in the first line of defense against antigens and harmful toxins, and it is believed that regular Gua Sha treatments can enhance healing properties deep within the body, from the surface of the skin.
‘Gua’ is the scratching of the skin.
‘Sha’ is the texture that appears from the blood congestion which occurs after scratching.
For Gua Sha treatments on the body, the tool is applied and scraped against the skin with enough force to produce a ‘rash’. “Guash symptom” is where flushing and a tinge of pain occurs after usage and is a common aftereffect of treatment. It is believed that the texture that appears is the toxigen being released from the body. This bruising/rash typically fades in a few days.
The basis of Gua Sha lies in the belief that scratching on the skin can serve as a mechanical signal to enhance the immune surveillance function of the skin. In other words, it is believed that scratching and scraping can signal defensive properties within the skin which prepares the body to begin the healing process quicker and more efficiently.
Picking The Right Tool
Gua Sha tools are made from either an acrylic, metal or jade. These materials are the most common because they allow the tool to easily glide across the skin without tugging. The Treypoint is an acrylic multi-functional tool which includes an edge perfect for Gua Sha scraping. Its ergonomic triangular shape is easy to grip and the pin-pointed knobs can provide a deep tissue release alongside a Gua Sha treatment, for the perfect massage duo.
It is possible that the application of force and simultaneous scraping on the delicate surface of the skin can draw blood and increase the risk of contamination and bloodborne pathogen exposure.
On delicate skin, such as on the face, an overexertion of pressure has the possibility of causing blood capillaries to burst, leaving marks on the skin.
Gua Sha Benefits for the Body
More Efficient Healing
Gua Sha Treatment can possibly increase the effectiveness of vaccines, through preparing the body for a stimulus. In a study of Gua Sha treatment, it was found that intradermal injections, or injections that are shallow/surface level (vaccines), were found to be more effective through an increase of blood vessel expansion, and increased levels of immune active cells. It was concluded that Gua Sha can increase the immune response from the skin when it comes in contact with a antigen/toxin, through ‘up-regulation’ or preparation of a response to a stimulus. Gua Sha has the potential to “serve as a safe, inexpensive, and independent physical adjuvant for intradermal vaccination.”
Improve Chronic Neck Pain
In a clinical trial of 48 patients over the age of 50 who experienced severe chronic neck pain were asked to use Gua Sha on their neck as a form of treatment for one day. Reportedly, neck pain severity improved for the entire week following the treatment and provided short term benefits for chronic neck pain.
Increase Effectiveness of Your Muscles
44 male weightlifters received 16 sessions of Gua Sha therapy during their normal weight lifting training for 8 weeks. One group was assigned therapy while another group didn’t participate in therapy of any kind. The effectiveness of the treatment was evaluated by measuring their weightlifting ability. The end result reflected that the group which participated in the Gua Sha therapy showed a significant increase in their weightlifting ability. “Gua Sha therapy can facilitate weightlifting ability, reduce the RPE (Rating of Perceived Exertion), and inhibit muscle injury by promoting recovery from fatigue caused by normal weightlifting training.”
Gua Sha Benefits for the FaceFor a Gua Sha facial, the technique is vastly different from that used on the body - the strokes and pressure applied are extremely gentle. In many cases, Gua Sha tool can be compared to the other popular facial tool: the jade roller. However, Gua Sha is said to be even more effective in its benefits. Gua Sha works beneath the surface of the skin, for a deep friction that releases tension and improves drainage for a less puffy face.
Continuous treatments can increase your circulation which can help clear your skin of toxins and blemishes such as blackheads and acne, and increase collagen production, the overall appearance can become brighter and clearer. It is suggested that Gua Sha can boost the efficacy of your moisturizer, by improving circulation through constant sweeping motions - your product will become more easily absorbed and your skin will reap the benefits. Many Gua Sha participants also report tightening of their skin - after a quick 15 minute session. Start out with a few sessions a week to see what your skin can tolerate, then move on to more if you feel you can handle it.
How to Perform a Facial Gua Sha Treatment
1. Properly hydrate the skin for smooth application with your tool.
a. Using a facial oil is recommended for intense hydration.
b. Rosehip, Argan, Jojoba, Squalene, Hemp-seed are all great options for a moisturizing facial oil. (If your skin is sensitive - be sure to patch test, or test the oil on a small area on your face before applying it all over. Not everyones’ skin will react the same!)
2. In an upward motion, pull/scrape your skin with the tool using light or medium pressure, at most.
a. Angle the tool at 15 degrees, so it’s almost entirely flat against your skin.
b. Avoid active breakouts/open wounds that will become more irritated with physical contact.
c. Move from chin to jawline (where it meets your ear).
d. Sweep from the cheeks to the edges of your forehead, around the hairline.
e. Do no more than several strokes for each section of your face.
f. The skin beneath your eyes is sensitive and thin, use extra light pressure around this area.
Gua Sha has numerous benefits for both the face, and body! Best of all, it is an inexpensive treatment which can be the perfect addition to give your body the boost it needs to better perform, and helps your skin release that healthy glow from within. As with any treatment, no matter how harmless it may seem, start out slow and work your way up to find the perfect schedule and pace to fit your needs.