Also known as “scraping therapy,” the ancient practice of gua sha may help improve circulation, reduce inflammation, and relax muscles.
Gua sha tools keep popping up on your feed and promising a youthful face? These small, heart-shaped quartz stones put the ancient Chinese technique of gua sha in the beauty spotlight. But what the heck does rubbing stones on your face and body actually do?
While it might not reverse time and wrinkles, gua sha may offer benefits like reducing inflammation and relieving chronic pain. Here are the deets.
TBH, we don’t have enough research to demonstrate the full perks of gua sha, and many studies are extremely small and limited. But implementing this technique into your self-care routine *might* offer these potential benefits.
1. May help reduce inflammation and puffiness
Similar to other types of massages, gliding a gua sha tool across your face or body can promote microcirculation in your soft tissues, aka blood flow in small blood vessels. This increase in blood flow might help physical symptoms of inflammation like puffiness and swelling.
The practice may also help lymphatic drainage by moving fluid away from swollen areas, another benefit of massage in general.
2. Might reduce the look of wrinkles
Improved circulation *might* also be why skin looks tighter and fine lines look less noticeable after a gua sha sesh. But there’s no research yet showing that a facial gua sha massage helps your lip lines and crow’s feet. At best, these results are temporary, and it’s possibly more of a placebo effect if anything.
3. Can alleviate tech neck and other pains
If you feel the aches and pains from uncomfortable work posture or constant scrolling, a gua sha body massage might help.
In a small 2014 study involving 60 regular computer users with neck and shoulder pain, researchers found that gua sha helped reduce pain and improve range of motion.
Folks in a small 2011 study also reported that gua sha helped reduce neck pain, when compared with people who used heating pads. Just keep in mind that we still need more, high quality research on the therapeutic effects of gua sha to prove these perks.
4. Could improve headache and migraine symptoms
We’ll be honest, research is kind of sketch here. But if you’re dealing with migraine or headaches, gua sha might help relieve pain and tension in your noggin and neck, too.
A 2007 case study of a 72-year-old woman reported that gua sha helped relieve migraine symptoms over a 14-day period. But again, we need more studies to show these benefits are legit for more people.
5. May relieve perimenopause symptoms
Perimenopause is basically a sneak preview of menopause, when the body starts to produce less estrogen (hello, hot flashes 🔥). You can also experience not-so-fun symptoms like insomnia, night sweats, vaginal dryness, frequent need to pee, and breast tenderness.
6. Might help relieve engorged breasts
If you breastfeed and deal with engorgement, aka breasts that are super full of milk, gua sha may help you express milk like other forms of breast massage.
As far as actual research goes, just one 2008 case study found that gua sha helped one woman’s engorgement issues while breastfeeding. But this is a small and flawed study with just one participant.
7. Can aid in muscle recovery
Don’t have the desire to torture yourself with the foam roller, ice baths, or a deep tissue massage? Gua sha’s ability to promote blood circulation might also help move that buildup of lactic acid that accumulates from your workouts.
In a small 2017 study involving 65 male weightlifters, people who had gua sha treatments reported that lifting weights was easier post-treatment. And, researchers concluded that gua sha might help speed up muscle recovery and be a potential alternative to other sports recovery methods.
8. Could help hepatitis B symptoms
OK, we’re not claiming a gua sha treatment will cure hepatitis B — a viral infection that can cause liver damage and scarring. Treatment def requires a doctor! But a 2011 case study reported that gua sha over a 48-hour period helped treat a man’s liver inflammation from hep B. This study was pretty flawed, though, since it just looked at a single person and a very limited timeframe. It’s also important to note that reducing inflammation is a short-term approach to treating hep B.
9. May help Tourette symptoms
Tourette syndrome is a condition that affects the nervous system and causes sudden involuntary movements or sounds. While gua sha is not a miracle cure, limited research shows it might help reduce symptoms when you combine it with other treatments.
A 2017 case study of a 33-year-old man found that a combination of gua sha and other therapies appeared to reduce his Tourette syndrome symptoms. But we need more research to prove that it wasn’t the other therapies having the true impact.
Another small 2017 study involving 80 perimenopausal women found that people who had gua sha treatments for 8 weeks experienced fewer symptoms compared with the control group receiving only traditional therapy. You know the drill, we need more research here, but maybe it’ll help those similar PMS symptoms, too?
Gua sha, aka scraping therapy, is an alternative healing therapy that involves scraping a flat tool across the skin to improve circulation. This can be done on the face or the body, and gua sha practitioners use the technique to relieve chronic pain and tension.
Some folks also use gua sha as a beauty tool to boost circulation in their faces in the hopes of decreasing inflammation and reducing the look of wrinkles.
In traditional Chinese medicine, gua sha may enhance the flow of energy, or “qi,” throughout the body. The idea is that gua sha can help release stagnant or blocked energy, which practitioners believe causes that pesky inflammation.
If you feel ready to give gua sha a try, you can find gua sha tools online, in most beauty stores, or in the beauty section of most pharmacies. Most tools are $8 to $12 and might include a quartz roller (bonus!). If you’re on a budget, you can also use items with a weighted round edge — like a spoon or a *clean* coin.
Here’s how to perform a facial gua sha massage:
- Use a facial mist to hydrate your face.
- Apply a face oil or serum across your face and neck.
- Hold your gua sha tool against your skin at a flat angle (about 15 degrees) and apply light to medium pressure as you stroke different parts of your face and neck. Wiggle and massage the worked area with the stone after every stroke. Repeat each stroke slowly at least five times per area.
- For your neck. Stroke from the base of your neck toward the chin.
- For your jawline. Using the notched side of the stone, start at your chin and stroke up your jawline up to your ear.
- For your cheeks. Use the long side of the stone to rub in an upward motion across your cheek, from the side of your lip, to just above your ear.
- For your under eyes. Start below your eye, near the top of your nose, stroke along the under-eye region with the notched side of the stone, using very light pressure.
- For your brow. Using all sides of the stone at least five times, move along each eyebrow. Stroke upward and outward through the end.
You can also customize the practice for different parts of your body like your back, butt, arms, or legs. The process is basically similar and requires a massage oil and applying pressure in downward strokes.
Gua sha can lead to some mild bruising from all that rubbing and scraping. So, if you tend to bruise easily, gua sha may not be an effective option for you. Applying too much pressure may also hurt, so if you try gua sha with a practitioner, speak up if something hurts.
Bleeding is unlikely, since you don’t try to puncture the skin, but it is possible. Because of that small risk of transferring bloodborne conditions, contact a licensed acupuncturist or practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine for a gua sha massage. And if you decide to DIY, wash your tools and don’t share them.
Consider avoiding gua sha if you:
- take blood thinners
- have a clotting disorder
- have had surgery in the past 6 weeks
The ancient practice of gua sha may help improve circulation, reduce inflammation, and relax your muscles. It may also help relieve various aches and pains.
But most of gua sha’s potential benefits aren’t well studied, and we still need more research to understand the entire scope of its benefits.
If you still want to give gua sha a go, just talk with your doctor if you have any underlying conditions.