Gua Sha stone massage: what it is, how to use it, what effects

Stimulated circulation, reduced pain symptoms, reduced muscle tension. And these are just a few of the potential benefits of Gua Sha massage.

Natalia Grajcar - AuthorAuthorNatalia Grajcar
Natalia Grajcar - Author
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Natalia Grajcar, founder of Natu.Care. She knows and understands the health issues of her readers and clients very well. She shares her experience and strives to create awareness about healthy living and mental health.

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Graduate of Journalism and Artes Liberales at the University of Warsaw. Since 2017, he has been working with the biggest portals in Poland and abroad as an editor. Previously worked for 3 years in one of the leading pharmaceutical companies - he knows the health and beauty industry inside out. In his free time, he most enjoys playing tennis or skiing.

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Emilia Moskal specialises in medical and psychological texts, including content for medical entities. She is a fan of simple language and reader-friendly communication. At Natu.Care, she writes educational articles.

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Gua Sha stone massage: what it is, how to use it, what effects
29 April, 2024
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Gua Sha is a traditional healing technique that is highly regarded in Eastern medicine, especially in East Asia. Its roots date back to ancient times, when it was used to treat a variety of ailments and promote overall health. 

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In this article:

  • We will look at the history and origins of Gua Sha
  • .
  • We will discuss what exactly Gua Sha stone massage is all about
  • .
  • We will explain how Gua Sha massage works, when it can be used and its health benefits.
  • We will explain how Gua Sha massage works, when it can be used and its health benefits.

See also:

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What is Gua Sha massage?

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Gua Sha is a therapeutic technique whose name is derived from the Chinese words 'gua' (scraping) and 'sha' (reddening of the skin). It is a treatment involving the gentle scraping of the epidermis with a special tool to improve blood circulation and enhance systemic vital energy, known in Chinese as Qi.

It may sound like some dark, magical rituals. In reality, it is simply a certain way of massaging the skin and muscles based on the use of appropriate materials and tools.

  • In Gua Sha massage, tools are used, which are often made of jade, bian stone or buffalo horn. 
  • Each of these tools is made of jade, bian stone or buffalo horn.
  • Each of these has its own unique properties and is believed to be beneficial to health.
  • Each of these has its own unique properties and is believed to be beneficial to health.
  • Before starting the massage, an oil, lotion or ointment is applied to the patient's skin to ensure that the tool will glide easily over the surface of the skin, minimising the risk of irritation.
  • Massage is performed by applying the tool to the skin and making sliding and scraping movements, usually along the muscle fibres.

How does Gua Sha stone massage work?

Stimulates blood circulation

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This technique stimulates circulation by scraping the skin, which contributes to increased blood flow to the massaged areas. Increased blood circulation speeds up the healing process, helping the body to remove harmful substances and facilitating the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues.

Stimulates blood circulation

Affects muscles and connective tissues

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Gua Sha affects the muscles and the surrounding fascia and connective tissues. Gua Sha stone massage helps to relax muscle tension, leading to a reduction in pain and discomfort.

Removes toxins

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Gua Sha massage activates the lymphatic and circulatory systems, which promotes the elimination of toxins from the body. In addition, according to folk knowledge, under the influence of the treatment there is an equalisation of the flow of vital energy (Qi), the disorders of which, according to Eastern medicine, can be the cause of many health problems related to the retention of toxins in the body. 

Stimulation of blood circulation, interaction with muscles and connective tissues make Gua Sha massage have both immediate and long-term effects.

What does Gua Sha massage help with?

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Gua Sha massage can be used to treat the symptoms of many conditions or health problems. Among them are:

Headaches and migraines

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Gua Sha can relieve pain and reduce the frequency and intensity of migraine attacks by reducing muscle tension and improving blood circulation to the head area.

Neck, shoulder and back pain

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Gua Sha therapy provides relief from muscle and joint pains by stimulating blood circulation and releasing blocked Qi energy in these areas.

Inflammatory and rheumatic conditions

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Gua Sha can reduce inflammation and provide relief from conditions such as arthritis and spondylitis.

Digestive problems

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Gua Sha therapy can support digestion and relieve abdominal pain, improving circulation in the abdominal cavity and strengthening internal organs.

Contraindications to Gua Sha massage

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Despite the many benefits of Gua Sha therapy, there are some situations in which it is better to avoid the treatment (or be extra cautious):

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  • Do not apply Gua Sha to open wounds, bruises or irritated areas of the skin, so as not to aggravate infection and cause further damage.
  • People who have a disorder of the skin should not apply Gua Sha to open wounds, bruises or irritated areas of the skin.
  • People with blood clotting disorders, diabetes, or those on anticoagulants should consult a doctor before treatment.
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  • Avoid using Gua Sha on areas where blood vessels are easily damaged - for example, on the hands or feet.
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When you find a specialist to perform a Gua Sha treatment for you, make sure they are qualified and experienced. If you decide to carry out a Gua Sha massage yourself, follow the techniques and safety precautions, and if in doubt, consult a professional.

Benefits of Gua Sha stone massage

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Regular use of Gua Sha massage can provide many health benefits. Here are the most important ones:

Immediate visual effects

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After a Gua Sha treatment, the patient's skin often takes on a reddish hue, resulting from petechiae, or small haemorrhages. This is a direct effect of the stimulation of blood circulation. It usually disappears within a few days, while providing relief from pain and muscle tension.

Stress reduction

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Gua Sha stone massage leads to relaxation and a reduction in stress symptoms. The therapy helps you to face daily challenges better and lowers cortisol levels.

Reduce muscle pain and tension

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By improving blood circulation, Gua Sha massage works on the deepest parts of the muscles, helping to reduce painful muscle tension conditions. It is particularly beneficial for people with chronic muscle and joint pain.

Improve circulation

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Gua Sha massage has a beneficial effect on the circulatory system, so it can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, including by controlling blood pressure or bad cholesteroland.

Supporting immune system function

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By improving the lymphatic system and speeding up the removal of toxins, Gua Sha stone massage contributes to strengthening the immune system and helps to fight infections more easily.

Regular use of Gua Sha massage can contribute to improving the overall health and functioning of the body. When combined with healthy eating habits and attention to mental health, Gua Sha can be a valuable part of your daily care.

Regular use of Gua Sha massage can help improve your overall health and function.

Where and how to get a Gua Sha massage?

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Find a qualified therapist

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See local massage parlours, holistic medicine centres or public health centres to find a Gua Sha stone massage specialist. Make sure the massage therapist is certified and experienced in performing Gua Sha treatments.

Try Gua Sha at home (but with caution)

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If you decide to try Gua Sha yourself, choose the right tool and oil or ointment that will enable you to conduct the massage more easily. Also review educational materials or watch instructional videos (you can easily find them for free on YouTube). 

Remember, however, that amateur performance of Gua Sha may put you at risk of unwanted side effects. If you're not sure if you can handle it, it's better to go to a specialist.

Please note.

Clinical studies about Gua Sha massage

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  • Gua Sha massage is seen as an effective therapeutic techniqueand. It is also recognised as a safe practice .
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  • Gua Sha massage is believed to have a systemic effect on the body through mechanical manipulation of tissues and joints, applying pressure and stimulating blood flow  .
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  • Research suggests that Gua Sha massage is effective in reducing symptoms of chronic pain  
  • Gua Sha massage can also improve blood flow and lymphatic drainage, resulting in clearer skin 
  • Gua Sha massage has been used effectively to treat breast oedema and  

Summary

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  • Incorporating Gua Sha massage into your daily skincare routine can bring many benefits to your health and well-being.
  • The most important health-promoting properties of Gua Sha massage are stress reduction, releasing muscle tension and improving circulation.
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  • Please remember to choose a qualified Gua Sha therapist or learn the correct technique if you choose to perform the treatment yourself.
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  • Over time and with regular use of Gua Sha massage, its health benefits will be compounded.
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FAQ

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. How often to perform a Gua Sha stone massage?.

Do a Gua Sha massage 2-3 times a week for best results. Remember to give yourself at least one day's break between sessions to give your body time to recover.

. Does Gua Sha massage hurt?.

The Gua Sha massage should not cause severe pain. Slight discomfort is normal, but a feeling of pain means that you should reduce the pressure on the skin or ask your specialist to reduce the intensity.

. Will Gua Sha massage help with muscle spasms?.

Yes, Gua Sha massage can help reduce muscle spasms. By improving circulation and lymph flow, the massage helps muscles to relax and relieves tension and pain.

. Is Gua Sha massage the same as a facial roller massage? .

Gua Sha massage is different from a roller face massage. Gua Sha massage is performed using a flat stone with smooth edges to apply pressure to the skin. A roller face massage uses, as the name suggests - a roller, usually a jade roller - to gently massage the skin of the face.

. How much does a Gua Sha stone massage usually cost?.

Prices for Gua Sha massage can vary depending on location and specialist. On average, a session costs between £100 and £400, but it's worth checking offers from massage parlours in your area to get accurate information.

. Do you need to wash after a Gua Sha massage?

Just after a Gua Sha massage, you do not need to wash immediately, however, it is recommended to remove the oils used from the skin within a few hours after the treatment. 

. Is it necessary to wash the stone after a Gua Sha massage?.

Yes, the stone should be washed after the Gua Sha massage if you are doing it yourself. Using clean soapy water, carefully clean the surface of the stone, then rinse the stone and dry. Regular cleaning of the stone will prolong its life.

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Sources

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. See all.

Barbalho, M. de S. M., & Moraes, P. H. (2016). The effects of the Gua Sha technique (western view) on the flexibility of the posterior chain: series of cases. Manual Therapy, Posturology & Rehabilitation Journal, 1-5. https://doi.org/10.17784/mtprehabjournal.2016.14.373

Bernier Carney, K. M., Young, E. E., Guite, J. W., & Starkweather, A. R. (2020). A Systematic Review of Biological Mechanisms and Chronic Pain Outcomes During Stress Reduction Interventions. Biological Research For Nursing22(2), 205-216. https://doi.org/10.1177/1099800420907964

Gresh, A., Robinson, K., Thornton, C. P., & Plesko, C. (2019). Caring for Women Experiencing Breast Engorgement: A Case Report. Journal of Midwifery & Women's Health64(6), 763-768. https://doi.org/10.1111/jmwh.13011

Hamp, A., Anderson, J., Laughter, M. R., Anderson, J. B., Presley, C. L., Rundle, C. W., & Dellavalle, R. P. (2023). Gua-sha, Jade Roller, and Facial Massage: Are there benefits within dermatology? Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology22(2), 700-703. https://doi.org/10.1111/jocd.15421

Musial, F., Spohn, D., & Rolke, R. (2013). Naturopathic Reflex Therapies for the Treatment of Chronic Back and Neck Pain - Part 1: Neurobiological Foundations. Forschende Komplementärmedizin / Research in Complementary Medicine20(3), 219-224. https://doi.org/10.1159/000353392

Nielsen, A. (2009). Gua sha research and the language of integrative medicine. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies13(1), 63-72. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jbmt.2008.04.045

Priyanka, P., C, B., A, R., Kurhade, G., Kurhade, A., Justiz-Vaillant, A., Powar, R., & Vuma, S. (2016). Comparative effect of ultrasound therapy with conventional therapy on breast engorgement in immediate post-partum mothers: A randomized controlled trial. Integrative Molecular Medicine3(2), 553-558. https://doi.org/10.15761/IMM.1000203

Spohn, D., Musial, F., & Rolke, R. (2013). Naturopathic Reflex Therapies for the Treatment of Chronic Pain - Part 2: Quantitative Sensory Testing as a Translational Tool. Forschende Komplementärmedizin / Research in Complementary Medicine20(3), 225-230. https://doi.org/10.1159/000353446

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Meet the team
Natalia Grajcar - Author

Founder of Natu.Care

Natalia Grajcar, founder of Natu.Care. She knows and understands the health issues of her readers and clients very well. She shares her experience and strives to create awareness about healthy living and mental health.

Witold Tomaszewski - Reviewed by

Doctor of Medicine

Verified by an expert

Doctor of Medicine, food and pharmaceutical law expert and experienced medical professional.

Michael Tomaszewski - Edited by

Editor

Michael Tomaszewski

Graduate of Journalism and Artes Liberales at the University of Warsaw. Since 2017, he has been working with the biggest portals in Poland and abroad as an editor. Previously worked for 3 years in one of the leading pharmaceutical companies - he knows the health and beauty industry inside out. In his free time, he most enjoys playing tennis or skiing.

Emilia Moskal - Fact-checking

Natu.Care Editor

Emilia Moskal specialises in medical and psychological texts, including content for medical entities. She is a fan of simple language and reader-friendly communication. At Natu.Care, she writes educational articles.

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