Boynn McIntire has recently completed a comprehensive Gua sha certification
course with the leading national Gua sha expert and researcher Arya Nielsen.
This course combined 58 hours of didactic and hands on practical training that
went above and beyond current Gua sha training provided at the graduate and
doctoral level acupuncture education. This certification has deepened Boynn’s
understanding of the science and evidence for Gua Sha, and has expanded Boynn’s
clinical application of Gua sha.
Gua sha is an important hands-on medical treatment that has been used
throughout Asia for centuries. Gua means “to rub” or “press stroke.” Sha is a
term that describes the blood congestion in surface tissue in areas where the
patient may experience stiffness and pain; sha is also the term for the little
red dots that are raised from applying Gua sha (Nielsen 2012). When Gua
press-stroking is applied in repeated even strokes, sha appears as small red
dots called “petechiae” and the pain immediately shifts. In minutes the small
red dots fade into blended reddishness. The sha disappears totally in two to
three days after treatment. The color of sha and rate of fading can indicate
important information about a patient’s condition. Pain relief lasts even after
the sha is completely gone.
The benefits of Gua sha are numerous. It resolves spasms and pain, and
promotes normal circulation to the muscles, tissues and organs, as seen in Gua
sha’s immediate effect on coughing and wheezing. Research has shown that Gua
sha causes a four-fold increase in microcirculation of surface tissue (Nielsen
et al. 2007) and can reduce inflammation and stimulate the immune system (Braun
et al. 2011; Chan et al. 2011). Gua sha upregulates heme-oxygenase-1 (HO-1),
that acts to reduce internal organ inflammation, for example, in cases of
asthma, hepatitis and liver disease.
After gua sha, you may experience immediate changes in stiffness and pain.
Because Gua sha mimics sweating, it can help to resolve fever. Gua sha cools
the patient who feels too warm, warms the patient who feels too cold, and
relaxes tension and reduces anxiety. Acupuncturists and practitioners of
traditional East Asian medicine consider Gua sha for any illness or condition
where there is pain or discomfort, for upper respiratory and digestive
problems, and any condition where touch palpation indicates there is sha. Gua
sha is often done in combination with acupuncture for problems that acupuncture
alone cannot address.
Check out our video demonstrating Gua sha in the clinic
M., Schwickert, M., Nielsen, A., et al., 2011. Effectiveness of Traditional
Chinese ‘Gua Sha’ Therapy in Patients with Chronic Neck Pain; A Randomized
Controlled Trial. Pain Med 12 (3), 362–369.
S., Yuen, J., Gohel, M., et al., 2011. Guasha-induced hepatoprotection in
chronic active hepatitis B: A case study. Clin Chim Acta 412 (17–18), 1686–1688.
KK, Kloetzer L, Wong KK et al. 2009. Bioluminescence imaging of heme
oxygenase-1 upregulation in the Gua Sha procedure. J Vis Exp. 30 (August
A., 2012. Gua Sha. A Traditional Technique for Modern Practice, 2nd ed.
A., Knoblauch, N.T.M., Dobos, G.J., et al., 2007. The Effect of Gua Sha
Treatment on the Microcirculation of Surface Tissue: A Pilot Study in Healthy
Subjects. Explore (NY) 3 (5), 456–466.