JUDD JONES: Guasha

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This week, I want to share something with you that you may not be familiar with and that is Guasha. Guasha is sometimes referred to as Gua sha which is an ancient and traditional Chinese healing technique. Now before I get too deep into the subject, I also want to share with you a new and very skilled Acupuncturist who has recently relocated to our area.

Lise Takashina, Lac, has recently opened her Peony Acupuncture and Apothecary practice here in Coeur d’Alene. Lise has spent many years living in Japan and China, perfecting her understanding of traditional East Asian medicine and acupuncture. Lise is working toward her doctorate and I have found her to be a refreshing source of knowledge regarding many aspects of health and wellness.

Since Guasha in it’s traditional form is new to me, I have asked Lise to answer a few fundamental questions that will help shed light on this healing practice.

What is Guasha?

Guasha is a medical treatment that has been used throughout East Asia for centuries. Gua means “to rub” or “press stroke,” and Sha describes transitory therapeutic petechiae near the skin surface. Guasha is often administered in combination with acupuncture for problems that acupuncture alone cannot address.

In your practice, what approach do you take when incorporating Guasha with Acupuncture?

Each patient comes with a unique kaleidoscopic set of presenting symptoms. Most notably, the tongue and pulse are diagnostic tools specific to Chinese Medicine which helps to illuminate the course of treatment. The treatment plan may include acupuncture, Moxa, Tuina, herbal medicine, Guasha, essential oils, etc. Treatment modalities are selected to suit each patient’s health condition and treatment goals.

What type of health issues would the use of Guasha be best suited to address?

The benefits of Guasha are numerous. Guasha increases circulation of blood in the subcutis (tissue just below the skin surface). It is highly effective in resolving tension and blood stasis induced spasms and pain — ideal for those who do a lot of desk work! It is typically administered in the neck, shoulders, back and the knees. It is part of folk remedy tradition across East Asia and is commonly administered to dispel early signs of the common cold or acute inflammatory symptoms such as fever, migraines, earaches, cough, asthma, nausea and bronchitis.

The anti-inflammatory effect of Guasha’s therapeutic impact on conditions such as active chronic hepatitis is shown in numerous studies coming from both China and the U.S. [1].

[1] Chan S, Yuen J, Gohel M, Chung C, Wong H, Kwong K. Guasha-induced hepatoprotection in chronic active hepatitis B: A case study. Clin Chim Acta. 2011; in412; 1686-1688

How is Guasha administered? How intense is a Guasha treatment? Is it painful or have any lingering discomfort?

Guasha, also called “coining” or “scraping,” is unidirectional press-stroking of lubricated area of the body surface to intentionally create transitory therapeutic petechiae called “sha” representing extravasation of blood in near the surface area of the skin. There may be slight discomfort during the treatment, but intensity can be adjusted so the patient can feel comfortable receiving the treatment. Patients usually find immediate relief from pain and stiffness with increased mobility. There may be slight tenderness for 1-2 days after the treatment once the “sha” is gone, the treatment can be repeated until the symptoms subside.

After treatment, the patient is advised to keep the area protected from the wind, cold and direct sun until the “sha” fades. They are also encouraged to drink plenty of water and eat moderately.

Is Guasha something that should be done periodically to maintain overall health and wellness?

Absolutely. It is a treatment modality that can be used to treat very common concerns such as neck and shoulder tightness to fever and cough. I also use a very gentle guasha technique on the face to increase circulation and smooth the skin surface before administering facial rejuvenation acupuncture.

Should certain people avoid Guasha due to pre-existing health issues?

Guasha is contraindicated for those who take blood-thinning medication. Please let the practitioner know if you are on blood thinners or have an increased bleeding risk. Other contraindications include anemia, severe fatigue, infectious diseases, and acute skin conditions such as ulcers, sores and fresh unhealed wounds. It is administered with caution for pregnant women, as there are contraindicated areas of treatment.

As a traditional Chinese medical practice, how mainstream is Guasha becoming in the U.S.?

Guasha has become more common and mainstream in the U.S. Guasha is administered by acupuncturists in both private clinic and hospital settings across the country.

• • •

If you have questions for Lise regarding Guasha or her practice please email her at info@peonyacupuncture.com and she will be happy to get back to you.

• • •

Judd Jones is a director for The Hagadone Corporation and Certified Health Coach.

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