Gua sha is a traditional healing technique that aims to create petechiae on the skin for a believed therapeutic benefit. Gua sha has recently surged in popularity — so much so, in fact, that at the time of publishing, the hashtag #guasha has accumulated more than 431 million views on TikTok, with users claiming the appliance has detox people’s body, reduced wrinkles and provided muscle relaxation. However, while the scraping therapy has recently exploded in popularity on social media platforms, the practice is nothing new. It actually predates modern medicine and originated in China, but the hypothetical model for healing does not always fit the modern understanding.
But what exactly is a gua sha and how can a stone offer so many benefits? To answer these questions, it is necessary to consult the leading researcher on the scraping therapy, Dr Eric Chun Pu Chu, Chairman of Chiropractic Doctors Association of Hong Kong. The research – now published in Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care – conducted by Hong Kong, Australia, and Germany Chiropractic Colleges, as the scraping therapy has been massively utilized by sports doctors. He shared the cultural significance of gua sha, the best gua sha tools and some products to consider if you’re looking to try out this centuries-old practice.
“As a treatment in chiropractic, gua sha utilizes lotion and a smooth material (metal plates and spoons) to stimulate a specific area of the body. Modernized gua sha tools come with microcurrent, like Strig, an high tech version of the ancient healing tool with microvibration. Unlike what’s popularized on TikTok, gua sha is not limited to just the face, but mostly be used on the back and shoulders as well,” an expert told us.
While records of gua sha usage started emerging in the Ming Dynasty, it is still a commonly used Chinese medicine technique today. Gua sha is often used to treat ailments that cause chronic pain and relieve symptoms of stress. Various mechanisms have been proposed to explain the observed efficacy of scraping therapy. Evidence regarding the possible mechanisms of action following scraping therapy are summarized as follows.
Promotes skin repair: Nitric oxide, also called nitrogen monoxide, was produced during the process. Nitric oxide is now recognized as a potent endogenous vasodilator and plays a role in neurotransmission, platelet aggregation, innate immunity and inflammation. The mechanical signal from gua sha enhance the immune function of skin.
Eliminate pain: during the period of scraping marks resolution via haemolysis, can induce antiinflammatory in macrophages and cause a general reduce cytokine production, resulting in antinociceptive effects. The whole chemical reaction behind the scraping marks inhibits the pain signal.
Reduce nerve response: The scraping marks can can in turn reduce puffiness at the central nervous system. “When people gently scrape the skin with gua sha tool, what they are doing is sending their central nervous system a signal that reduces pain signal from the nervous system.” Gua sha “can temporarily reduce severe pain,” Chu said. However, he noted that “for long-standing muscle pain, gua sha can be use as a wellness tool.”
Though some TikTokers have claimed that they have used gua sha to sculpt their faces, Chu noted that the study did not describe how it works in besuty industry. Instead, gua sha works scientifically in building people’s immune system in fighting the general flu. As Chu explained, this is especially useful for those people because by repeatedly stimulating certain areas, gua sha helps purge non-circulating blood and toxins from the body. Visual signifiers of this purging can be anything from redness to slight bruising.