Gua Sha

A unique technique used in AOM is gua sha. Gua sha is a medical therapy using strokes on the patient's body with applied pressure to help return the body into balance and harmony. Gua sha can be used for many AOM patterns. The most common clinical applications are cold, heat, and stagnation.

For example, if a patient has a common cold, it's is often diagnosed as a wind-cold or a wind-heat. That diagnosis means either pathogenic wind and cold, or wind and heat has entered the body and is causing the patient's defense qi (wei qi) to work to push out the pathogen. Many times, applying gua sha to the patient in the initial onset of the wind-cold or wind-heat can help the body release the pathogen.

Another common indication for gua sha is when a muscular trauma has occurred. If a patient is presenting a trauma with excess heat (inflammation), cold, or qi and blood stasis (circulatory issue), the use of gua sha can release the heat or cold as well as improve circulation. There are many other indications for gua sha, but these are among the most common.

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A very strong gua sha response in a patient.

When applying gua sha to a patient, the practitioner is looking for a sha response. Sha is the color the skin turns during and after receiving gua sha. If the area becomes bright red, there is pathogenic heat being released. If it becomes purple, cold or stagnation is being released. If it is pale-pink, either cold is being released or deficient energy is being moved.

Many types of tools can be used for making the gua sha strokes. Some common tools are ladles, carved animal horns, and stones. I have used many tools, but my tool of choice is a quarter. I have found the ridges of the quarter help bring the sha to the surface the best. Additionally, the thinness of the quarter allows easy maneuvering.

At times, the application of gua sha can be uncomfortable for the patient. Since the strokes are applied in regions where pathogens have accumulated, such as heat/inflammation and stagnation, having pressure on these areas can temporarily provoke more pain. But, the result of gua sha is often a relief or complete absence of pain or pathogen. Patients often recover from colds and muscular skeletal traumas very quickly after receiving gua sha.

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Included in this blog are pictures of very strong gua sha response. There are many apparent regions of sha. The placement of the sha follows several acupuncture meridians. The sha response is very red with a little purple. This response, along with other clinical findings, indicates heat and stagnation have been released. The sha usually disappears in 2-7 days.