Healing Therapies: What is Gua Sha?


A simple and effective healing treatment…

As devout wellness warriors here at, we’re always on the lookout for new, interesting and beneficial therapies that will bring us ever closer to that elusive idea of whole, long-lasting health. Gua Sha is one such healing treatment that’s recently piqued our interest and is especially useful for anyone with a build up of tension in their back/shoulders (so yeah, that’s pretty much all of us then…)

Sometimes referred to as ‘coining’ or ‘scraping’ (don’t worry, it’s nowhere near as nasty as that sounds, in fact it’s quite relaxing), Gua Sha is defined as “instrument-assisted unidirectional press-stroking of a lubricated area of the body surface to intentionally create transitory therapeutic petechiae called ‘sha’ representing extravasation of blood in the subcutis.” Or, put simply, using a small flat tool, it relieves areas of the body in which stagnation has occured, where the flow of Qi (Traditional Chinese Medicine term for energy) has been disrupted. Stagnation can refer to that of Qi or of blood. Either way, it’s undesirable an G ua Sha quite miraculously does away with it.

Working over 40 hours a week at a computer with perpetually bad posture (not to mention the hours outside work we spend with our necks buried in our phones) coupled with the stresses and anxieties of daily life, it’s no surprise to learn that almost all of us would experience some stagnation from time to time. For the most part, you’d hardly notice it, but when a small knot of tension grows legs and becomes a constant, physical irritant, you’ll be relieved to know you can do something simple about it. Qi traffic jams can manifest in myriad ways, however. For this writer it’s been chronic back pain but for others it will be colds and flus, inflammation, upper respitory issues and more.

What can you expect? ‘Sha’ is the term used to describe the temporary red blotches that appear on the skin from scraping the tool repeatedly over the affected area in a slow, gentle manner. To see redness at this point is a good sign, however, showing that the blood flow has been invigorated, as it decreases anytime we have a spasm or injury or a blockage of Qi. On top of this, both lactic and uric acid are said to get trapped underneath the skin or within a bound up muscle, unable to drain away on account of the decreased blood flow. It has been theorised often that metabolic waste turns crystalline in the body (that’ll be the knots). Gua Sha aims to break apart those crystals, allowing for detoxification and a return of your mo-jo. As an added bonus, it stimulates circulation, increases energy levels and balances your emotions.

I pair Gua Sha with acupuncture (my other favourite holistic, alternative therapy with Hannah O’Connell Acupuncture) and after months (quite literally, MONTHS) of the same, aching knots in my back, I feel an 80-90% improvement after just two sessions.

Certainly worth a try.


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