Does Gua Sha Work? – HealthyWomen

You’ve probably seen videos on social media of people showing off their teasing jaw lines and perfectly sculpted cheekbones praising a small heart-shaped stone. You’re probably skeptical of said heart-shaped rock. And that’s a good thing: you can’t believe everything you see on the Internet.

But research shows that gua sha, a massage technique that uses a smooth-edged tool, can have health benefits and reduce inflammation in the body (think: swelling in the face). It may not be the dramatic transformation we all hope for.

Read: Face Yoga 101 >>

Here’s what you need to know about the ancient massage technique everyone’s talking about.

What is guasha?

Gua sha (pronounced “gwah-sha”) is a type of massage that uses a soft-edged tool to help promote circulation, healing, and reduce inflammation.

Gua sha is a form of traditional Chinese medicine. The idea is that your energy needs to flow freely. If your energy is stagnant, tool-assisted massage can help release the flow by gently scraping (applying constant pressure) in one direction.

Gua sha can be used on the body and face. For the body, gua sha is usually performed by an acupuncture technician or specialist. The technique causes petechiae, small red dots on the skin due to bleeding blood vessels under the skin and can cause bruising. This sounds a little scary, but the process shouldn’t hurt (if you’re sensitive to pressure, you can talk to the technician about it) and any skin changes should disappear after a few days.

Gua sha therapy for the face is gentler and you shouldn’t see red spots or bruises (if you see them, it means you’ve applied too much pressure). Most people can do gua sha at home as part of a beauty routine.

What are the health benefits of gua sha?

Research is being done on the health benefits of gua sha, but studies show that it can help relieve symptoms of health conditions. These may include:

  • Chronic pain
  • Headache attack
  • Neck Pain
  • Back pain
  • Arthritis
  • fibromyalgia
  • Breast fullness after childbirth

One study found that perimenopausal participants had a reduction in symptoms, including hot flashes, insomnia, and fatigue, compared to participants who did not receive gua sha therapy.

Who shouldn’t use gua sha?

Most people should have no problems with gua sha. But you should talk to your healthcare provider before trying gua sha if you have circulation problems, take blood-thinning medications, or have health problems such as diabetes.

How to use gua sha

The home version of gua sha is different for your face and body.

  • Face Gua Sha: After you find your tool, start by spreading a few drops of oil on your face so it glides over your skin. Most exercises start towards the middle of the face. Depending on the area you’re working on, you’ll gently scrape the tool along your skin in an upward and/or outward direction (not back and forth or in circles. Don’t get fancy). Remember, you don’t want to apply too much pressure. The lighter the better.
  • Body gua sha: Just like gua sha for your face, start by adding oil to the skin you are going to massage. Scrape the smooth-edged tool over the skin with long, upward strokes (toward the heart) and a good amount of pressure to stimulate blood flow to the area.

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