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How Gua Sha Can Help with Chronic Pain, Neck Pain, Low Back Pain, and Anti-Aging

Every few years, gua sha resurfaces as a new skincare fad on whatever social media platform is trending. It’s often seen as a revolutionary, yet extremely simple, way to carve out cheekbones and sculpt the neck. What isn’t often discussed is that gua sha dates back thousands of years, originating in traditional Chinese medicine. It’s also much more than a skincare miracle: it’s been used to effectively treat chronic pain, neck pain, low back pain, as well as for anti-aging purposes.

What is Gua Sha and Where Did It Come From?

Gua sha is a modality within acupuncture therapy. The process of gua sha involves scraping the skin with a tool, and can be applied to various parts of the body that are experiencing pain or blockages. In acupuncture, gua sha is done in such a way that it creates detoxification and redness, both of which promote healing. We see gua sha applied most often on the neck, back, and shoulders. Gua sha works with the body to assist with its natural healing process, just like other components of Chinese medicine.

Gua means “press stroke” or “to rub,” while sha describes the red dots and blood congestion in tissues that result from applying gua sha. Today’s gua sha technique is based on an ancient healing technique that first appeared in written medical text in 220 CE. It’s also referred to as “jade scraping” and is sometimes even done with a coin.

While that may work for some, gua sha tools are much more user-friendly and are sculpted to assist with the process. They are small, smooth stone tools that you hold with your hand, pressing and stroking the skin. Skin should be well lubricated with oils or moisturizers before beginning.

Benefits of Gua Sha

Gua sha can help with a variety of areas and issues, including:

  • Lifting and sculpting the face by encouraging lymphatic drainage

  • Relieving musculoskeletal pain, especially neck, shoulder, and back pain

  • Aiding with common colds, fevers, coughs, or aching upper body

  • Sinus relief

Apart from the different areas you can apply gua sha, it also helps to stimulate circulation and collagen production, which in turn softens fine lines and wrinkles, effectively aiding with anti-aging. It can help decrease inflammation, dark circles, and puffiness. Finally, it provides a brighter look to the complexion, releasing tightness in areas of tension.

Why Gua Sha Works and What to Expect

Although you can apply gua sha at home, especially for anti-aging on the face, more serious issues should be addressed with a practitioner. A practitioner will make sure your skin is properly lubricated and will apply the technique to areas of need.

A practitioner who specializes in administering gua sha will review the color of the marks left behind, or the sha. They will specifically be looking to see the quality of the marks and how quickly they fade. Afterward, you're instructed to keep the area protected from extreme conditions like direct sun or cold. You can do moderate exercise, but sometimes may be required to rest and drink lots of water. The sha should heal and fade in two to four days. When the marks remain for longer, practitioners will look for a deeper root cause, such as a deeper stagnation, organ deficiency, or blood deficiency.

Gua sha works for several reasons. It encourages blood circulation, which helps to break up stagnated energy, or qi, in the body. Gua sha can also help break down connective and scar tissue, which improves movement in the joints.

For chronic pain, neck pain, and low back pain, practitioners usually start by working around the affected area. Once the area is loosened and energy and blood begin to move, the practitioner is able to address the root cause. Gua sha is sometimes offered in conjunction with acupuncture, depending on the area of concern.

If you’re interested in creating an anti-aging gua sha practice at home, shop our gua sha tools here. [] For more serious issues, like neck pain, low back pain, chronic pain, be sure to see a trained practitioner. With their help, you can benefit from the ancient practice of gua sha.

Schedule with Dr. Jaz here. As always, please let us know if you have any questions about how gua sha can benefit you!

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