Gua sha is one of my favorite techniques to relieve pain quickly. Have you heard of cupping? Most people remember the round purple circles on Michael Phelps’s shoulder in Olympics past. Gua sha similarly helps the body recover and heal — and looks just as crazy.
The basic concept is that a tool is used in a gentle scraping motion to massage stagnation out of the muscles. I use — of all things — a Chinese soup spoon like you’d use for wonton soup!
What Does Gua Sha Do?
Stagnation limits circulation in strained or injured muscles. This is essentially the cause of muscle pain. So, like clearing traffic from a blocked road or removing debris from a swampy river, gua sha helps to restore free circulation.
What you see after a gua sha treatment is that stagnation has been brought to the surface. This is why the circles on Michael Phelps’s body were purple (it’s not a bruise). This often creates some immediate relief and contributes to an improvement in circulation for continued healing and restoration. You can even use gua sha on the face to help improve circulation cosmetically!
Gua sha is even commonly used in physical therapy these days. You may have heard of Graston Technique. The concept is very much the same.
I often use gua sha when treating patients with musculoskeletal pain. It’s integrated within a regular acupuncture treatment. I love it because it works!