Channel Scrubbing (Gua Sha)

Channel Scrubbing

Channel Scrubbing

Channel scrubbing (or gua sha in Chinese) is one of the therapeutic techniques frequently used in Chinese medicine. It originated as a folk medicinal technique and its first description dates back to the end of the Han Dynasty (220 AD).

Scrubbing uses a small hand-held tool to repeatedly scrape over the surface of the skin. Where cupping is applied to larger and flat areas of the body, scrubbing can be used on the head, neck, shoulders, upper body and limbs to treat smaller muscles, tendons and joints.

What does it feel like?

Scrubbing can feel slightly sore depending on the amount of stagnation in the area being treated. The pressure is adjusted to make these treatments feel strong yet comfortable for each person. Scrubbing can give immediate relief to stiff muscles and make the body feel looser and lighter afterwards.

Functions and effects

Scrubbing is applied along the acupuncture channels and over certain points to improve Qi & Blood flow to the internal organs and clear toxins and pathogens from deeper parts of the body.

It promotes circulation to the muscles and connective tissues and reduces pain caused by Qi and Blood Stagnation.

From a biomedical point of view, the resolution of painful conditions is justified by the increase of heme-oxygenase (HO-1) and its anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effect (Artioli & Bertolini, 2019).

In addition, three other possible mechanisms are described to support their effects on musculoskeletal pain:

Increase of the local microcirculation, reducing distal myalgia.

Stimulation of the serotonergic, noradrenergic and opioid systems.

Minimisation of the direct effects of pain on the nociceptors, their surroundings, and the interconnections within the spinal cord.

What do my scrubbing marks mean?

Scrubbing causes temporary marks that can range in colour from pale pink to bright red to dark purple. This is a sign of the circulation being activated and the colour reflects the amount of stagnation and toxins being released.

Medically speaking, the skin marks that appear from scrubbing are not bruises (haematomas) which are painful swellings after an injury. Instead, scrubbing marks are described as petechiae, erythema and ecchymosis that occur only over the areas where stagnation is present.

The skin marks will clear completely usually within 1 to 2 weeks. We suggest drinking a glass of warm water to help the body clear toxins released after your treatment.

Scrubbing is a well-known treatment of traditional Chinese medicine, but like all treatments it is not suitable in every situation or for every person. Our traditional Chinese medicine practitioners will advise you if scrubbing is suitable following the diagnosis of each specific health issue.

Scientific References

Browse our collection of scientific research on Channel Scrubbing. It includes recent and reputable papers published by peer-reviewed journals within the last 10 years.

Brazilian Journal of Pain

2019, Jul

Gua-sha: application and therapeutic results in musculoskeletal pain situations. Systematic review
Brazilian Journal of Pain Brazilian Society for the Study of Pain

Gua-sha is a simple, inexpensive alternative with short-term effects for the treatment of conditions involving the spine and surrounding areas, such as a single intervention or in combination. Its practice is already well referenced but re- quires studies of high methodological quality and analysis of its effects also in the appendicular skeleton.

Dérrick Patrick Artioli; Gladson Ricardo Flor Bertolini Full Article

Pain Medicine

2011, Mar 25

Effectiveness of Traditional Chinese "Gua Sha" Therapy in Patients with Chronic Neck Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial
Pain Medicine American Academy of Pain Medicine

Gua sha has beneficial short-term effects on pain and functional status in patients with chronic neck pain. The value of Gua sha in the long-term management of neck pain and related mechanisms remains to be clarified.

Braun M, Schwickert M, Nielsen A, Brunnhuber S, Dobos G, Musial F, Lüdtke R, Michalsen A. Full Article