Gua sha explained: Origins, reported benefits and side effects

Gua sha explained: Origins, reported benefits and side effects
via Explore More / YouTube
Bryan Ke
February 28, 2024
Gua sha, a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) procedure practiced for centuries, is believed to offer many health benefits, beyond mere cosmetics suggested by recent trends. 
About Gua sha: Regarded as one of the oldest forms of TCM, gua sha’s recorded history reportedly dates back to the Yuan and Ming Dynasties, when it was used to open up muscular interstices, promote blood flow and expel pathogenic factors. Some sources say it was practiced as early as the Paleolithic Age, when early humans used hands, stones or other tools to alleviate symptoms or even help with a loss of consciousness.
In performing gua sha, a licensed TCM practitioner uses a tool — more commonly made of wood — and lubrication to repeatedly rub or scrape a patient’s body until they turn red. This purportedly helps the patient maintain a good flow of “qi” or “life force.”
Gua sha takes from the Chinese word “gua,” which means “scrape,” and “sha,” which refers to the redness of the skin after the scraping process.

Becoming popular: The practice apparently gained popularity on TikTok amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but the trend was more focused in highlighting its cosmetic use.
Celebrities such as LizzoOlivia Rodrigo and dancer Maddie Ziegler have all incorporated gua sha in their facial routines. Australian model Miranda Kerr even sells a rose quartz “facial sculptor” on her beauty shop, Kora Organics, for 84 Australian dollars ($55).
Reported benefits: Gua sha is said to help ease inflammation, a common condition associated with chronic diseases and pains, and promote healing and blood flow. It is also to relieve musculoskeletal problems, such as tightness in the shoulders, legs and back, as well as tension headaches and migraines.
One case study found that gua sha helped reduce chronic inflammation in an individual with Hepatitis B, a condition that affects the liver and causes inflammation, damage and scarring. Another case study found that gua sha, combined with other TCM practices, helped a 33-year-old man with Tourette syndrome, a nervous system condition characterized by involuntary movements or vocalizations known as tics. His symptoms reportedly improved by 70% after undergoing 35 weekly sessions of gua sha, acupuncture and receiving herbs on top of modifying his lifestyle. Meanwhile, some larger studies say gua sha could help alleviate symptoms of perimenopausal syndrome and breast engorgement.
Side effects: While gua sha is considered generally safe, patients should expect to see redness or bruising on targeted areas. Minor bleeding may also occur during treatment, so people on blood thinners or those with blood clotting or circulation disorders are encouraged to seek medical advice first. Additionally, those who have recently undergone surgery or have broken skin, open wounds or injuries are discouraged from receiving gua sha as it could lead to infections or other medical complications.
 
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