Ancient Healing: Gua Sha

Before you freak out, let me say that, no, I have not been abused!  This is the work of a medical professional that I trust very much. What you see in the picture is the result of an ancient healing technique used by millions of Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners and Asian grandmothers around the world.

The technique is called Gua Sha.

I was first introduced to Gua Sha two years ago when I began working with an acupuncturist in Gainesville, Florida.  One of the most debilitating symptoms from Lyme disease is the constant muscle tension and pain.  Gua Sha promotes loosening of the muscles and overall relaxation by removing blood stagnation and improving circulation.  Gua Sha has been used for hundreds, if not thousands of years to reduce pain, stiffness, fever, cough, nausea and more.

How does it work?

After massaging in a natural moisturizer, such as coconut or grape seed oil, the practitioner (or grandmother or spouse...  With a little training, anyone can do this.  You can even perform it on yourself!) uses a round edged tool (a pickle jar lid works great) and moderate pressure to scrape the back, neck, and hips until the skin has turned a bright pink.  In some areas, as you can see, small red spots appear, called petechiae or "Sha" in Chinese medicine, which results in an almost hickey-like appearance.  This is a sign that there was in fact blood stagnation that the Gua Sha is helping to stimulate.

What does it feel like?

Receiving Gua Sha isn't exactly the most relaxing experience, but the resulting soft tissue relief is definitely worth it.  Some places, like the shoulder blades, are more sensitive than others.  If you have a sunburn or open sores, avoid or work around these areas.  Overall, it feels similar to a deep tissue massage.  Depending on how much petechiae come up, you may experience some bruising look and feeling in the week following your session.

Afterwards you will want to avoid direct cold or heat, such as ceiling fans or the sun.  This is because the skin is super sensitive at this point.  Also, you may experience fatigue, which is completely normal.  This is another indicator that your body is doing some serious healing work.

My experience with Gua Sha

As I said above, my first experience with Gua Sha was over two years ago when, after going round and round with Medical Doctors to cure problems with my kidneys, I was guided to a local acupuncturist.  Having worked with an acupuncturist about four years before and not having the greatest experience, I was a bit hesitant going into for my consultation.  Jerrod made me feel really comfortable and was very open to answering all of the questions I had about Traditional Chinese Medicine.

At the first session he performed another technique, called "cupping," that didn't give any desired results.  The second session he tried Gua Sha, which I loved, and I had him do it at our almost-weekly sessions for the next year.

The first time I had Gua Sha done, my back looked terrible but felt amazing ! That night, I went out to dinner with my then-boyfriend and had my hair up in a messy bun.  The waiter saw what looked like bruises and shot the boyfriend a dirty look.  I started laughing, knowing what he was thinking, and explained to the waiter that it was actually a healing technique.  He didn't seem convinced.

With each successive session the petechiae showed up less and less.  When I was in the middle of a Lyme flare-up it would look worse but overall it got better each time.

When I moved to Europe I was really missing my sessions with Jerrod, so I had my boyfriend try it on me once.  I think he was afraid of hurting me, so it didn't turn out quite like I was expecting, and I appreciated him trying for me.  At certain times while doing the Klinghardt Cocktail, an intensive Lyme protocol, my hips felt like they were going to snap and the soft tissue around them was extremely sensitive; to the point that it was almost unbearable to sit up.  During these times I would grab my coconut oil and pickle jar lid and use what little energy I had to scrap my glutes, in attempt to find some relief.

Since I was just visiting family and friends in Florida last week, I decided to stop by and pay Jerrod a visit.  After almost eight months without much Gua Sha, my back looked similar to my very first session (as you can see in the pictures), and once again it felt pretty awesome.  I did have a slight headache afterwards, which I think was from all the tension in my neck that was being released.  I knew to plan a quiet evening afterwards, so I went home, took a nap, and read my book on the porch while enjoying the summer heat.