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Gua Sha: The secret weapon for neck and shoulder pain

Updated: Sep 29, 2021



I call Gua Sha the secret weapon for pain, especially neck, shoulder and upper back pain. It can also be used to treat upper respiratory tract infection, and digestive disorders. So, what is this secret weapon all about, and will it help me?


Gua Sha is an ancient traditional technique, originating in East Asian cultures. Gua – is translated as pressure or scraping, and Sha is translated loosely to mean blood congestion in the tissue.


To perform Gua Sha, a practitioner uses a tool to press firmly on the skin to release underlying congestion. There are many different tools available, they can be made of jade, ceramic, stone, animal horn, or stainless steel for example. In our office, we use the humble Chinese soup spoon, it is comfortable for both the practitioner and the patient. Some Chiropractors and other therapists use special expensive tools to perform their version of Gua Sha called the Graston Technique or IASTM. From my experience, if the tool is firm, and has a smooth edge, and is used by an experienced licensed practitioner it does not make a significant difference which tool is used.


The Gua Sha technique involves applying a lubricant to the area to be treated (we use coconut oil), and using firm pressure, to the patient’s tolerance.


When there is muscle pain, stiffness or spasms, the pressure is used to release underlying congested blood and muscle toxin (sha) to relieve pain and improve range of motion. One study reported a 400% increase in microcirculation after gua sha. When the congestion is significant, or has been present for a long time, the area subjected to scraping will color, anywhere from red to purple to red-black. It looks kind of like a road rash, but there is no release of blood and the integrity of the skin is not broken at all. It looks intense, but it does not hurt, and there are no adverse effects.


Gua Sha can also be used when there is an upper respiratory tract infection, or digestive problem. In either case the pressure is applied to the upper back, and possible the upper chest to promote normal circulation to the tissues and organs. The technique increases microcirculation of the surface tissue and can reduce inflammation and stimulate the immune system. Typical conditions treated are asthma, cough from cold or flu, hepatitis, liver disease, and nausea or acid reflux.


Most patients feel better immediately after a gua sha treatment. We instruct them to keep the treated area free from cold, drafts, wind and heat until the sha fades. Also, to drink plenty of water. The sha marks will fade normally after 2-4 days.


If you are interested in gua sha, just call or text us! We are always happy to chat and answer questions 479-437-9056

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