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.
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
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.
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.