Gwa Sha is a technique which involves the scraping of the skin to produce friction. When friction is applied in repeated even strokes, the sha (congestion of blood at the surface of the body) surfaces as small red, or multiple blood-red colored pinhead sized areas on your skin. In minutes, these red areas fade into echymotic patches (the passage of blood from ruptured blood vessels into subcutaneous tissue, marked by a purple discoloration of the skin). The sha disappears totally in two to four days. The color and rate of fading are both diagnostic and prognostic indicators.
Gua Sha is sometimes used as an alternative to acupuncture needles for the needle-shy, but is most commonly used in children. The traditional tool used is a Chinese porcelain soup spoon. When Gwa Sha is performed, the spoon is gently scraped across the skin to bring up a red color. When the red color is sufficient the treatment is complete.
The most common indication for Gwa Sha in adults is upper respiratory infections. For this problem, Gwa Sha is done across the back of the neck, shoulders, and upper back. In children, the forearms, back, and sometimes the leg are used to treat all manners of problems. Children tend to respond quite favorably to lighter treatment, and therefore Gwa Sha may easily substitute for acupuncture.