Gua Sha - Chinese Health Care

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When I go to China, one of the first things I do is get a gua sha treatment from my friend, Dr. Charles Li. It relieves all the aches from the 22 hours of traveling, and stress related to it, and helps me get over my jet lag as well as get a good sleep. Gua sha is an extremely effective and relatively simple traditional Chinese treatment, but almost impossible to find information about it in China.
When I went to the jade market in Xiuyan, I couldn't find gua sha tools. But as soon as I asked a seller if she had gua sha tools, every seller who had gua sha tools started bringing them to me, smiling, and surprise a "foreigner" knew about this.

When I went to the traditional Chinese pharmacies, many of them had gua sha oil. But I could not find any books about gua sha in the book stores in Beijing, even in the foreign language book store. Dr. Li explained to me that gua sha is more of a home remedy, and such a small part of traditional Chinese medicine that it is rarely given any consideration in the literature. He uses it frequently and finds it very useful. He provides traditional Chinese medical treatment to "foreigners" who sometimes are afraid to have acupuncture, or don't like the taste of Chinese herbal medicine. Gua sha used with stimulating acupressure points has been very effective and helpful in his practice.

Gua Sha is an ancient therapeutic practice that began in China centuries ago. It remains a popular practice in China, Vietnam, Indonesia and Southeast Asia. Gua means to scrape or rub. Sha is a reddish, elevated "millet like" skin rash. Sha is the term used to describe blood stasis in the subcutaneous tissue before and after it is raised at petechiae.
Gua sha is used for pain associated with an acute or chronic disorder. The affected person may feel aching, tenderness and/or a knotted feeling in the muscles. When normal finger pressure on the person's skin causes blanching that is slow to fade, sha may be suspected. Gua sha is used to treat and prevent acute conditions such as common cold or flu, asthma, bronchitis as well as chronic problems involving pain and congestion of the qi and blood.

Gua sha is applied primarily on the back, neck, shoulders, buttock and limbs of the body. Advanced practitioners may also raise sha on the chest and abdomen.
To apply gua sha, first lubricate the area with oil. If you do not have gua sha oil, you can use White Flower or any other oil. If there are any moles, cuts or unhealed areas, cover them with your fingers. Do not apply the gua sha tool to these kinds of areas. Hold the gua sha tool at a thirty degree angle to the skin, the smooth edge will touch the skin.
Gua sha stroke areas
Rub the skin in downward strokes using moderate pressure. The person should not feel pain although it might feel uncomfortable. Stroke one area at a time, until the petechia of that surface is completely raised and all the sha is up, which is when stroking no longer increases the number of dots or changes the color. Then move to the next area.
The sha petechiae should fade in about 2-4 days. If it is very slow to fade, it indicates poor blood circulation and there may be more serious deficiency that will require additional treatments with combination of acupuncture or acupressure in specific areas.

Since gua sha moves stuck qi and blood, the person receiving gua sha will probably feel immediate changes in their condition. It is a very useful treatment for external and internal conditions and treats both acute and chronic disorders.

Gua sha treatment can be used up to three times weekly, and is most effective when used as a weekly treatment on chronic conditions.

NOTE: "Blood" refers to the traditional Chinese medicine definition, and is not the western body blood.

Gua Sha Tools Available Here

Some information is from Gua Sha A Traditional Technique for Modern Practice, Arya Nielson is a comprehensive book about gua sha. .

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