Gua Sha

Gua Sha

Gua sha is an ancient therapy which Margaret practices alongside acupuncture.  Traditionally gua sha is used to boost the immune system and release tightness and blockage in the connective tissue.

Recently, Margaret was in an article on gua sha in the Daily Record, which you can read here.

Please find Margaret’s information sheet on gua sha  below:-

Information on Gua Sha

Contraindications: uncontrolled warfarin, (imminent sports competition?)

刮痧 (Gua Sha) is an important hands-on medical treatment that has been used throughout Asia for centuries.  Previously regarded in the West as an unusual home remedy, gua sha has recently caught the attention of medical researchers as its efficacy in stimulating anti-inflammatory processes has come to light.   刮 (Gua) means ‘to rub’ or ‘press stroke’.  痧 (Sha) is constriction in the microcirculation in areas where the patient is experiencing pain or stiffness.  Sha is also a term for the little red dots, or petechiae, that are raised by applying repeated gua (press strokes) to the skin.  Gua sha therefore is the use of an instrument to repeatedly press stroke the skin, in areas of constricted microcirculation, until red petechiae appear.

The uses of gua sha are numerous.  It resolves spasm and pain and promotes normal circulation in the muscles, tissues and organs.  It has an immediate effect on coughing and wheezing.  Research has shown that gua sha causes a four-fold increase in microcirculation of the surface tissue (Neilson et al 2007) and can reduce inflammation and stimulate the immune system (Braun et al 2011: Chan et al 2011).   Heme-oxygenase-1 (HO-1), an enzyme involved in anti-inflammatory processes, is produced in response to gua sha.  This suggests a mechanism for the beneficial effects of gua sha on inflammatory conditions such as asthma, hepatitis and rheumatoid arthritis.

During gua sha treatment, the patient can experience immediate changes in stiffness and pain, with increased mobility.  Within minutes the small deep red dots produced on the skin fade to a blended reddishness.  The marks should totally disappear after two to three days, during which time the body’s anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and immune processes will be elevated.  The colour of the sha, and the rate of fading, can give the practitioner important information about the patient’s condition.  Pain relief lasts even after the sha is completely gone.

After treatment the patient is advised to keep the area protected from wind, cold and direct sun until the sha fades.  They are also encouraged to drink plenty of water, eat moderately and avoid drinking alcohol for the rest of the day.  Occasionally a slight fever may be experienced for 1-24 hours after treatment.   Since gua sha has antioxidant effects, in the absence of conclusive research, I advise that clients do not have gua sha 24 hours before participating in sports competitions.


Braun M, Schwickert M,Neilsen A, et al 2011.  Effectiveness of Traditional Chinese ‘Gua Sha’ Therapy in Patients with Chronic Neck Pain; A Randomised Controlled Trial.  Pain Med 12(3), 362-369

Chan S, Yuen J, Gohel M, et al 2011.  Gua Sha induced hepatoprotection in Chronic Active Hepatitis B: A Case Study, Clin Chim Acta 412(17-18) 1686-1688.

Kwong KK, Kloetzer L, Wong KK, et al 2009. Bioluminescance Imaging of Heme Oxygenase-1 upregulation in the Gua Sha Procedure. J Vis Exp. 30 (August 28): 1385

Nielsen A, 2012. Gua Sha A Traditional Technique for Modern Practice, 2nd edition, Elsevier, Edinburgh.

Nielsen A, Knoblauch NTM, Dobos GJ, et al 2007.  The Effect of Gua Sha Treatment on the Microcirculation of Surface Tissue: A Pilot Study in Healthy Subjects. Explore (NY)3(5), 456-466.