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The name gua sha — pronounced gwahshah — comes from the Chinese word for scraping. It may also be called skin scraping, spooning, or coining.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, qi or chi is energy that flows through the body. Many people believe that a person's qi must be balanced and flowing freely to ensure their health and wellbeing.
In the same tradition it is believed that qi can get blocked and cause pain or tension in muscles and joints. Gua sha aims to move this blocked energy to relieve aches or stiffness.
Gua sha is the practice of using a tool to apply pressure and scrape the skin to relieve pain and tension. This action causes light bruising, which often appears as purple or red spots. Another aim of gua sha is to move pooled or stagnated blood to relieve symptoms.
Gua sha may help to break down scar tissue and connective tissue, improving movement in the joints. Good for relieving back pain and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Practitioners claim that gua sha can also benefit the immune system and reduce inflammation. Sometimes, gua sha is used to treat a cold, fever, or problems with the lungs.
This treatment has been tested and works for these groups of people:
- women near menopause
- people with neck and shoulder pain from computer use
- male weightlifters, to help with recovery after training
- older adults with back pain
The treatment does not have any serious side effects but is not suitable for people with certain medical conditions such as these:
- who have medical conditions affecting the skin or veins
- who bleed easily
- who take medication to thin their blood
- who have deep vein thrombosis
- who have an infection, tumor, or wound that has not healed fully
- who have an implant, such as a pacemaker or internal defibrillator