Meet Gua Sha: This Ancient Practice Calms Inflammation and Smooths Wrinkles

Alison Pedler Alison Pedler
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gua sha calms pain and smooths wrinkles

We carry tension on our bodies a lot more than we might realize. Waking up with puffy eyes, getting a splitting migraine headache, and showing premature signs of aging—are just a few of the negative impacts of unchecked stress.

While it’s important to practice routine self-care, such as reading a book, taking a walk, or having a nice long soak in the bath, this may not be enough to alleviate built-up stress. There is often leftover tension, stagnation, or inflammation that’s difficult to get rid of

Gua sha, a staple practice in Eastern medicine, aims to release this tension in both our bodies and our psyche. So, what is gua sha and how does it work? Keep reading to learn more about this ancient practice and how it may be beneficial in your life.

What is Gua Sha?

Gua sha (pronounced gwah-shah) derives from the Chinese term meaning “scraping.” It’s sometimes also called spooning, coining, or skin scraping (though it’s not meant to break the skin).

The concept of gua sha comes from traditional Eastern Asian medicine and revolves around the idea of “chi” or “qi,” which is the flow of energy within our bodies. According to this belief, an individual’s flow of chi plays an important role in their overall health and wellness.

When chi gets blocked, this leads to tension, aches, stiffness, inflammation, and other physical symptoms.

Gua sha uses a smooth scraping tool to apply pressure, focusing on releasing blockages by stimulating the flow of stagnated blood and energy. This action creates light bruising, which is said to promote the healing process by creating “microtraumas” on the body. While these traumas don’t cause any serious injury, they send a message to the body that it’s time to heal.

The Potential Benefits of Gua Sha Treatment

Multiple studies have backed the effectiveness of gua sha.

A 2017 study found that patients treated with gua sha therapy had anti-inflammatory effects that lasted longer than a traditional hot pack. Both treatments had equal benefits, but gua sha seemed to have a longer-lasting effect.

In a 2014 study, participants who received gua sha had an improved range of movement and reduced pain versus those who didn’t receive treatment. Each group consisted of heavy computer users, and the administration of gua sha therapy was apparently beneficial.

Though further research on gua sha treatment is necessary, what we’ve seen so far is very promising. Practitioners and patients who receive this treatment have reported benefits such as:

  • Quicker muscle recovery
  • Balanced hormones
  • Enhanced immune system
  • Relief from chronic pain
  • Reduced puffiness on the face
  • Migraine relief
  • Reduced muscle tension
  • Improved lymphatic drainage

How is Gua Sha Done?

During gua sha treatment, a practitioner uses a small, smooth hand-held tool with rounded edges.

First, oil is applied to the treatment area. Then, the practitioner applies firm pressure and moves the tool across the patient’s body in long strokes.

Facial applications use a gentler tool—typically a rounded rollerball made of a crystal such as jade or quartz.

Are There Any Side Effects to Gua Sha?

You’re unlikely to experience any severe side effects from gua sha treatment. Slight bruising is likely, but shouldn’t last very long, and some people experience slight discomfort during the treatment.

Practitioners don’t aim to break the skin, but if this does happen, sanitary tools should prevent the risk of infection. 

As with any treatment, it’s important to seek out a licensed practitioner. Always consult with your physician before adding gua sha to your routine.

At-Home DIY Gua Sha Treatment

gua sha is done with a small card or gentle stone roller

While you’ll receive the best results from a licensed practitioner, it’s possible to self-administer gua sha treatment. 

For body treatments, you’ll need a gua sha tool and body oil or a good moisturizer. Apply the moisturizer to the entire treatment area, then run the flat side of the tool in long strokes. Repeat 20 to 60 times in a single direction using medium pressure (don’t move the tool back and forth).

To treat facial puffiness, tension, and premature aging, you’ll need a quartz or jade roller tool and a hydrosol facial mist such as rosewater. After spraying the product on your face, gently to firmly roll the tool starting from the middle of the face and working outwards. Begin down by your collarbone and work your way up, always rolling outwards from the center.

You can also use your roller when applying eye cream for enhanced benefits and absorption.

Getting Started with Gua Sha

Gua sha is an ancient practice that many can benefit from. Whether it’s pain, facial puffiness, or anti-aging you’re after, this treatment can make an excellent addition to your routine.

To get started, you can find a licensed practitioner in your area. Or, if you’re more comfortable with an at-home approach, you can find tools, tutorials, and supplies online.

However you choose to use gua sha, just remember to listen to your body and do whatever feels good to you. Incorporate it into your self-care routine and see how it can improve your life!

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