In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), gua sha is a popular healing technique that aims to treat muscle pain and tension. A professional strokes the skin and applies pressure with a smooth-edged tool. This practice not only aims to reduce pain, but also to move energy, qi or chi, around the body. Gua sha may also help break down both scar tissue and connective tissues, helping to improve joint mobility.
What Is Gua Sha?
The name gua sha, pronounced gwahshah, comes from the Chinese word for scraping. It sometimes translates to “skin scraping” or “skin spooning.” It’s a practice that helps to balance and improve a person’s chi. If chi remains unbalanced, it cannot flow freely to ensure optimal health and well-being. The belief is that blocking internal energy can lead to aches or general stiffness, especially in the joints. Gua sha, in addition to unblocking energy channels, may help move pooled or stagnated blood to relieve symptoms.
More often than not, people use gua sha to relieve muscle and joint pain. Practitioners claim that gua sha can also benefit the immune system and reduce inflammation. In the past, it has been used to help treat colds, fevers, and even problems with the respiratory system. In regards to musculoskeletal issues, though, physiotherapists use a similar technique for pain relief. They scrape connective tissue that is not working in order to help joints move as they should.
Gua sha is not a technique that you learn overnight. It takes time to educate yourself on how to use the tool, where to scrape, and what movements benefit the body most. There is a lot of ancient wisdom behind the practice, so you must be patient with this practice. Before you get going, though, there are important tips to follow to avoid skin damage. Keep the following beauty tips in mind before starting gua sha.
Before you scrape your skin with the gua sha tool, you should apply moisturizer for smooth gliding. Using the tool repeatedly on dry skin does not feel great, and it can even cause structural issues over time. In TCM, body oil tends to be the go-to lubricant for both face and body gua sha. If you need another layer of moisturizing cushion, start with a layer of lotion and then top that with a layer of carrier oil. Ideally, use ingredients that help hydrate the skin and protect the skin barrier.
Practice On Your Inner Forearm
For self-practice, it takes time to learn how much pressure you should apply when performing gua sha. Learning the basic techniques is part of the process because gua sha is a nuanced practice. A great place to practice your skin scraping is on the inner forearm because you can easily feel what intensity is tolerable. Additionally, it’s much easier to avoid skin-tugging on this area. That said, you should still moisturize before practicing on your forearm. The goal is to make smooth, even-pressured stokes. The body has more muscle than the face does, so you can apply more pressure on the shoulders, legs, etc., going a little deeper if that is relaxing.
Redness Is Perfectly Natural
When you scrape the skin during gua sha, it’s perfectly natural to see some redness. All that means is that blood is flowing to the area, so don’t let a little rosy skin alarm you. In fact, one might argue that the redness is a sign that gua sha is working. Applying more pressure will also yield a little more redness, but the pressure should never be severely uncomfortable. A little “hurts so good” type of pain is acceptable, but don’t cripple yourself.