Guasha is a surprisingly simple and effective therapy. “Gua” means press-and-slide. “Sha” refers to the therapeutic petechiae, or redness, that the skin expresses when you release stagnation from tense muscles. Guasha is an ancient technique, and still used in many parts of the world. It is recommended for relief of tense, painful muscles. Research studies are beginning to explain its health benefits.
Guasha is defined as: “A traditional East Asian medicine healing technique that applies instrument-assisted uni-directional ‘press-stroking’ of a lubricated area of body surface to intentionally create transitory therapeutic petechiae representing extravasation of blood in the subcutis” (“Guasha, A Traditional Technique for Modern Practice,” by Arya Nielsen, 2013; pg. 14).
When a muscle is chronically tense, the muscle fibrils are in perpetual contraction. Blood is trapped in the fibril, such that old blood can not leave, and fresh oxygenated blood can not enter the fibril. The repeated gentle but firm, uni-directional press-stroking forces stuck blood out of the capillary bed (the tiniest blood vessels in the body) without damaging the walls of the capillaries. The smooth-edged tool slides right over and presses the lubricated tissue.
As the body detects old blood outside the capillaries, physical and chemical changes stimulate a natural healing response. Anti-inflammatory cytokines and immune system modulators are released. Research has shown a 400% increase in tissue microperfusion. Though the skin looks like it might hurt, it actually does not hurt. It feels like your tense muscle is being rubbed; it feels good. In fact, immediate changes after guasha are pain relief and improved range of motion. Patients can expect to see their own expression of “sha.” This coloration fades over 2-5 days, depending on the strength of application. As always, gentle technique is always available.