Gua Sha as a Tool for Muscle Tension and Relief

As a chronic migraine sufferer, finding another tool to add to your toolbox is always valuable. I discovered Gua Sha while receiving weekly accupuncture to try to settle my nervous system and get my migraine attacks under control. One thing that was noted was that my neck and back muscles were incredibly tight–I’m fairly sure my acupuncturists used the word “concrete” to describe my upper back and neck muscles. She suggested we give Gua Sha a try to help loosen the muscles. Once I did it a few times I was HOOKED. I had noticeable differences in my overall muscle tightness and discomfort which was perpetuating the migraine attack cycle.

What is Gua Sha?!!

So what is Gua Sha?! Well its a therapeutic, healing technique that has its roots in East Asian medicine. According to Dr. Sheel Desai Solomon, a board-certified Raleigh-Durham North Carolina dermatologist; “Gua” means scrape, and ‘Sha’ means sand,” in an article from Good Housekeeping , “Dr Solomon was noted saying that “it is a treatment that involves scraping a flat jade or rose quartz stone over the skin in upward strokes to relax stiff muscles and promote tissue drainage”. Furthermore, it has been noted to treat muscle aches, pain and tension.

My Experience

When doing proper technique of Gua Sha–the tool is rubbed agains the skin in long strokes applying enough pressure that may (or will) cause minor bruising. This article here; from Medical News Today, provides a great comprehensive overview at Gua Sha as a treatment tool including any medical concerns with using this as a form of treatment.

In my experience , I have been utilizing my Gua Sha tool on my face as a little gentle massage after I do my morning and nighttime skin routine, but I primarily use it on my shoulders, temples and neck muscles during an attack to help relax the muscles and promote blood flow in those areas.

What to Expect:

The first time I had the technique done, my skin was bruised for several days–it was not painful while being done but my skin was a bit sore to the touch for a few days following. Your skin should become a little pink/red while performing the technique, and it may turn into some bruising if any capilaries are broken. For me this technique has significantly helped my neck/upper back and shoulder muscle tension, and has been a great tool for me to keep the tightness under control.

On a typical day, I will do 2 treatments of my neck and shoulder area–usually once in the morning and again in the evening. If I am in an active attack, I may do upwards of 4 sessions to help keep my muscles loose—BONUS it feels like a nice gentle massage on those sore, painful areas that become activated during attacks.

What you need to perform Gua Sha:

  1. Gua Sha tool or even a simple spoon will work!
  2. Lotion or a gentle/non scented oil (I use coconut oil) to help move the tool across your skin.

Some of my favorite “How to” Videos for Reference:

  1. Gua Sha on Back and Shoulders
  2. How to do Gua Sha to Yourself
  3. Breaking up muscle knots with Gua Sha
  4. Gua Sha on Neck (MY FAVORITE)!
  5. More Gua Sha on Neck

**Please check with YOUR doctor before trying any new treatments—this is only my experience and opinion of using this form of treatment in my migraine attacks.

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