How Does Gua Sha Massage Work?

Gua Sha is one such time-tested and popular therapeutic technique in East Asia. Tired of symptomatic treatment by allopathic medicines and their associated reactions and side effects, many people have started looking at ancient techniques and therapies for well-being.

Instead of scoffing at ancient wisdom, people now look at it with respect and try to understand and adopt it. Being simple, effective, and with no side effects, the ancient therapies are on the way to becoming mainstream treatment methodologies.

Wouldn’t you want to know how it works? What ailments can it cure? Can Gua Sha be self-administered?

Find answers to all these questions as you read further.

What is Gua Sha therapy?

Gua Sha is an ancient Chinese therapeutic and wellness therapy and belongs to the genre of Traditional Chinese medicines (TCM). It is popular among southeastern countries like China, Vietnam, Cambodia, etc.

Of late, it has had the attention of the Western world, and this is for an excellent reason. It is very effective in treating muscular and joint pains. It cures a cold, fevers, disorders of the lungs, malfunction of the liver, and migraine.

Facial Gua sha is much sought after by women all over the world, as it cures age-related wrinkles and keeps the skin taut and young.

Using a hand tool, also called the Gua sha tool, the affected area is scraped unidirectionally, with moderate pressure. It is essential to hold the tool at an appropriate angle and pull it over the skin unidirectionally. Application of some oil or proprietary Gua sha balm on the affected part aids in smooth skin scraping by the Gua Sha tool. The strokes can be long and short, depending on the body part treated.  The strokes need to be smooth. The typical scraping of the affected part brings relief to the pain, stress, and other disorders.

How does Gua Sha work?

Unhindered movement of chi (energy) throughout the body is the prerequisite of good health according to the TCM principles. Any obstruction in the flow of chi will result in a malfunction of an organ. Or it manifests as pain and tension in some parts of the body.  

Overwork, fatigue, or injury forms internal scar tissue on the muscles, which is painful. Overwork and strain generate uric acid and metabolic wastes, which get trapped in the muscle tissue or under the skin. The result of all these is obstruction of the chi, which moves in fixed paths called meridians.

This trapped chi is not only painful for the local muscle or tissue at the spot, but further down, it also hampers the working of some internal organs which get deprived of life energy (chi). It is also responsible for inflammation at the affected place.

Gua Sha skin scraping continues till red /purple vertical lines appear on the painful area. It will not take more than a few minutes. The tiny blood capillaries under the skin, break up because of the scraping pressure, and blood is released internally (subcutaneous). That explains the formation of Petechiae (sand-like red/purple spots in line formation.)

Gua Sha therapy achieves a 400% increase in the surface blood flow in the affected region for about seven and a half minutes. And for the next about twenty-five minutes, the blood flow rate is quite high. There is a marked increase in the microcirculation of blood in the soft tissue.

The tremendous flow of blood can wash off the blockage and toxins from the affected area. The vigorous physical rubbing of the skin also loosens and breaks the scar tissue.

The accumulated lactic acid and other metabolic waste get drained off from the spot because of physical agitation and increased blood flow.

The result is an improved flow of chi through the muscles and tissue. The relief is almost instantaneous, as the flow of chi is restored. Thus, the trapped chi gets released by Gua Sha.

In due course of time, as the blood reabsorbs into the circulatory system, the hemoglobin is broken down into Biliverdin and Bilirubin.

These are anti-inflammatory and cytoprotective (protect cells against harmful agents) in nature. These further help in alleviating the pain and keeping it at bay. It is evident to be relieved in several ways and reasons, which work simultaneously and in synchronization.

Does the bruise disappear?

The Petechiae bruises remain for a couple of days, and then they go off on their own. In case they do not disappear even after a week or ten days, you can consult a doctor to rule out any complications.

The appearance of the bruise is indicative of the therapy being effective. The type and color of the Petechiae divulge a lot of information to the experienced practitioner of Gua Sha. Like greenish-black or dark purple sha (bruise) means that the blockage was because of toxins, and now it is released. On the other hand, a brown sha means there was a deficiency of fluid in the body or a red, and warm Sha says there was a lot of heat in the affected region.

Gua Sha is quite effective on hands, legs, neck, and back for pain and stressed muscles. Apart from being effective and quick, it is also very safe with no side effects.

When to avoid Gua Sha?

Despite being safe and no reported side effects, there are certain situations and conditions to avoid Gua Sha:

  • It is not for pregnant ladies.
  • Since it is a hands-on therapy, best avoided in case of any skin infections, eruptions, or rashes. For the reason of personal hygiene.
  • Also, people with sensitive skin or who bleed easily must not use it.
  • Should not be used over the fractured parts of the body.
  • Not performed on broken or injured skin.
  • People with varicose veins should stay away from Gua Sha
  • The therapy also not advised in case the person carries some implant in the body.
  • It is always better to check with your doctor to find its suitability for you.


A simple therapy without any medication or consumables, Gua Sha, can cure lots of minor ailments. It is excellent for pain and stress management. If needed, it can be self-administered. Avoid drugs and medicines, and try these ancient holistic therapies for a safe and healthy life.

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