The Science Behind the Gua Sha Massage

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We can always count on a gua sha massage to get our blood flowing (literally); but how does this massage actually work? Today we are diving into the science behind the gua sha massage, so you don’t have to!

Let’s start by briefly going over what this massage is and where it originated.

The gua sha massage is an ancient Chinese practice that was used to promote healing in the body by using a tool with a rounded edge. This tool is used by a professional to scrape/rub the skin in long strokes while applying pressure. The traditional stone tool that is used for this practice is Green Jade, however Rose Quartz is a popular choice as well. Green Jade has been used for many years in Chinese medicine and is frequently used in Chinese beauty treatments. There are many benefits to this treatment; it can increase blood circulation, promote lymphatic drainage ,relieve tension from the muscles, improve lines and wrinkles, andit can l ift and contour the skin.

While gua sha can help us with our outer appearance, it can also help relieve health conditions such as musculoskeletal problems (tightness in the shoulders, back, and legs), headaches, migraines, neck pain, or swelling. Even those who struggle with anxiety, insomnia, or fatigue can see improvements after getting this massage. The many benefits can almost seem too good to be true, however there is a science behind the technique.

In traditional Chinese medicine, much of the focus is on a person’s “qi” (aka their energy). The goal of this specific practice is to make sure this energy is flowing through the body. It is believed that when a person’s “qi” becomes stagnant, health issues can arise. This massage will allow for a better blood supply and proper nerve conduction. The ultimate goal is to make sure that everything in the body is moving and working as it should; so we can be and feel our best.

The gua sha massage can be done on the face or the body. According to Timothy Sobo, a licensed acupuncturist, it is key that this massage is done in a way that supports the treatment goals, and that getting this massage done on the body is tissue-dependent. If you are new to the gua sha massage, you may want to simply start scraping/rubbing this along your skin without much thought, however this can actually end up causing more pain. There is a specific way that you’ll want to practice this technique. If a patient is struggling with a muscle knot, Timothy Sobo says, “You’ll want to work perpendicular to the muscle fibers so you can break up all of the adhesions. Then you’ll want to go in the direction of the muscle fibers to lengthen and get them in the correct direction again” (Sobo, Timothy, 2021).For example, if a patient has painful knots in their upper shoulders, a professional will use the gua sha tool to go back and forth across the shoulders in order to break up the knots. Once the muscles start to become loose, then the tool can be moved in the direction of the muscle fibers (usually moving inwards and outwards). Sobo also recommends to never start off moving the tool in this direction because it can actually make the tissue tighter.

When using the gua sha on the face, you’ll want to be a bit gentler by applying less pressure. Sobo says that rather than starting from the outer points of your face and working inward, it’s best to “divide your face in half and use your nose as the middle point”. Essentially, you’ll want to start at the nose and gently work your way outward. It is also recommended that you lift the tool after every outward stroke, rather than going back and forth over and over again.

Certain skincare products or regimes can become quite trendy for a time, however they do not always stand the test of time. Through trial and error, we are able to learn what is truly best for us. Fancy tools and products are super exciting (there is no denying that), but maybe we should pause and rewind a bit. There are always going to be new skincare techniques and practices, however, it seems that going way way back to ancient times can still benefit us today.

Written by Amanda Patch

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