Gua sha is a manual therapy technique involving the repetitive scraping of the surface of the skin using a smooth edged hard instrument (‘gua’ translates to rub or scrape). The most common implement used is a simple ceramic soup spoon (gua sha is commonly referred to as ‘spooning’ for this reason). Smooth stone gua sha tools, such as those made from jade or rose quartz, are also used. It is common in Vietnam for practitioners to simply use a coin (with the practise known as ‘coining’). In more ancient times, gua sha was typically performed using a carved buffalo horn.

Gua sha typically produces redness and/or red speckles on the skin resembling a red rash (petechiae). This skin reaction is what we refer to as ‘sha’. This redness fades over the proceeding 2-7 days. The intensity of the skin’s response is a direct reflection of the severity of the pathogenic influence being dispelled. As treatment progresses over successive gua sha treatments, the colour produced by the skin becomes lighter and lighter.


Gua sha is typically used in Chinese medicine to:

  • Expel pathogenic wind: wind is involved in the acute phase of most respiratory ailments including the common cold and hayfever, but can also be involved in some cases of acute neck pain (wry neck). Melbourne in particular has notoriously windy Springs, stirring up pollen and environmental pollutants, and wreaking havoc for those who suffer with seasonal allergies or breathing issues.
  • Clear heat: the red skin and prickles that surface after gua sha reflect the venting of heat from the skin. Internal heat can be associated with; an inflammatory response to an injury (alongside pain or swelling), the common cold (where it produces a fever or sore throat), or even the hot flushes accompanying menopause.
  • Move stagnant qi and blood: gua sha is commonly used to release muscular tension and pain by restoring blood circulation to the area of concern.

Gua sha is typically employed as part of a comprehensive treatment protocol alongside acupuncture and other techniques (cupping, moxibustion), rather than as a stand-alone therapy on its own.