Gua sha is a healing technique of traditional East Asian medicine. Sometimes called ‘coining, spooning or scraping’, Gua sha is defined as instrument-assisted unidirectional press-stroking of a lubricated area of the body surface to intentionally create transitory therapeutic petechiae called ‘sha’ representing extravasation of blood in the subcutis.
“Sha” is best defined as the red splotches or petechia that appear on the skin from rubbing the spoon or tool repeatedly over the affected area. Blood flow is decreased anytime we have a spasm or injury. Both lactic and uric acid can get trapped underneath the skin or within a bound up muscle due to the lack of drainage caused by the decreased blood flow. One theory is that this metabolic waste turns crystalline and breaking these crystals with the spoon or guasha tool can lead to microscopic trauma to blood vessels. Signs of these metabolic waste products being released into the tissue become evident in the form of sha. This sha is a positive sign for an initial treatment as it lets you know changes are happening in the underlying muscle tissue and fascia.
Modern research shows Gua sha produces an anti-inflammatory and immune protective effect that persists for days following a single Gua sha treatment. This accounts for its effect on pain, stiffness, fever, chill, cough, wheeze, nausea and vomiting etc. After an acute illness or injury the amount of redness, or sha, will be heavy post treatment. It may even appear there is bruising to the area. This bruising and redness will decrease over time. Repeated treatments will illicit less and less of the sha with each session. This gives us insight into the fact that something is being released and then cleared out from the area and is seen as another positive sign. The lessening of the sha should also be accompanied by a significant decrease in symptoms.