The promises of gua sha massage
Even if you’re not familiar with gua sha massage, you may have seen the colourful face massagers (often light pink or green in the shape of a tulip or a loose heart) – used for facial contouring.
These types of massagers say they’ll smooth wrinkles, lift eyebrows, reduce acne scarring – and they can even lighten dark circles and reduce puffiness. But that’s not all!
Acupuncturist Jenny Tu, PhD, has been offering UCLA students from the Arthur Ashe Student Health & Wellness Center gua sha massage for a number of ailments – primarily for pain management and muscle tension.
Now, from her private practice, she treats patients ranging from teens to seniors in their nineties. Gua sha was passed down to her by her family members as part of her Chinese culture and tradition.
Chiropractor Ronald Salupo, DC, has also implemented gua sha at his practice – even for plantar fasciitis. One of Salupo’s patients, Jill Carrigan, explains she had been in pain for several years. “Gua sha massage helped cure my plantar fasciitis symptoms in just six 30-minute sessions,” Carrigan says.
What exactly is gua sha?
Developed during the Ming Dynasty, gua sha is one of many techniques that has been used for thousands of years to treat patients with traditional Chinese medicine.
“The literal translation is ‘scraping sand’ for the reddish rash that appears after a gua sha session,” explains Tu.
The technical term for the tiny red spots is petechiae – due to tiny capillaries breaking open. This “scraping” type of massage can be beneficial for your whole body – commonly applied to the neck, arms, back, legs, chest and buttocks areas.
What to expect
The intensity of the massage varies depending on the area of the body being worked on.
“Traditional gua sha focuses on releasing the exterior or clearing excess heat of the body,” Tu reports.
The pressure and scraping motions are induced repeatedly to obtain the production of the tiny red spots on the skin. “Generally, one would expect to be sore and tender in the areas that are worked on with light red to purple markings for a couple of days,” Tu adds.
The specific oil used (to increase comfort level and absorption) and the shape of the gua sha tool may vary depending on the practitioner (or the one you choose for home – more on these below).