Gua Sha for TMJ: Say Goodbye to Jaw Pain



    Gua Sha for TMJ, also known as skin scraping therapy, is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that relieves pressure in the face. It has been found to be effective in treating conditions like temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder.

    TMJ disorder impacts the joints that connect the lower jaw to the skull, leading to chronic pain and discomfort, and lowering the quality of life. Various treatments are available to manage symptoms, including painkillers, massages, and alternative treatments like gua sha.

    This article examines the use of gua sha for TMJ, its advantages, other potential applications, and alternate therapies for TMJ.

    What is gua sha?

    Gua sha is a traditional and natural healing technique that originated in East Asia, and is rapidly gaining popularity in contemporary and Western medicine. This healing method employs an instrument with smooth edges to perform regular strokes in a single direction on lubricated skin.

    Gua sha is loosely translated as “dredging meridian stagnation.” In Chinese medicine, meridian refers to the flow of energy through a channel in the human body. Gua sha reduces barriers by clearing blockages in the body’s energy pathways, allowing for more efficient energy flow.

    The use of gua sha

    Gua sha enhances immune surveillance in the skin. Gua sha involves a scraping motion that induces petechiae, which are small, red spots that

    occur as a result of burst blood vessels in the middle layer of the skin. This protective mechanism enables the immune system to identify and eliminate potentially harmful cells.

    Gua sha is gaining popularity as a method to treat various conditions due to its non-invasive nature and ease of learning. A 2020 systematic review indicates that gua sha is among the most frequently used forms of manual therapy for musculoskeletal disorders.

    Gua sha for TMJ

    TMJ disorder is classified by doctors as a type of musculoskeletal pain that affects the jaw’s two joints connecting to the skull and the nearby muscles.

    Gua Sha efficiently relieves musculoskeletal pain by:

    • elevating the heme-oxygenase enzyme, leading to a decrease in inflammation and neuropathic pain
    • enables an immunomodulatory effect, meaning it alters immune system function
    • increases circulation in the location of treatment
    • resulting in a decrease of pain around the neurological receptors

    A 2021 systematic review discovered that up to 62.5% of individuals in the United States suffering from TMJ disorder may utilise complementary medicine to treat their condition, there’s a shortage of scientific literature when it comes to this particular topic.

    However, anecdotal evidence suggests that gua sha is an effective treatment for TMJ.

    TMJ symptoms

    The primary symptoms of TMJ disorder include

    • pain restricted movement of the jaw
    • hearing clicking or popping sounds when you open your mouth
    • headaches
    • ear-related issues like tinnitus

    Gua sha may alleviate TMJ symptoms

    • Tension and neck pain
    • muscle aches

    How to perform gua sha

    There may be varying techniques for performing gua sha depending on the intended purpose. In 2019, researchers proposed a potential routine specific to gua sha on the face:

    First, cleanse and moisturise the skin.Then, place the tool against the skin and apply pressure while using a scraping motion to move it upwards, creating therapeutic petechiae (sha) from the neck towards the cheeks.
    Repeat the motion from the beginning, moving the tool upwards in a single, continuous stroke.

    For optimal results, it is recommended that individuals seek guidance from a qualified professional when undergoing gua sha therapy.

    Other uses of gua sha

    Gua sha therapy has shown positive results for treating various disorders.

    It can be used as a treatment for respiratory and digestive disorders, fever,insomnia, and perimenopausal symptoms.

    Alternative treatments for TMJ

    • gua sha
    • low-level laser therapy
    • acupuncture

    These physical treatments have been shown to decrease pain and improve range of motion, according to research from trusted sources.

    However, it is imperative that a qualified practitioner administers the treatment, as they possess the expertise to identify the pinpointed pressure points and offer more comprehensive insights into the procedure.

    Other treatments

    The latest research has shown that the most effective treatment for TMJ disorder is non-medical. Recommended treatment methods include:

    • eliminating tough-to-chew food from the diet
    • resting the jaw, applying a warm compress
    • practicing facial stretches


    Gua sha is a natural healing technique that involves using a flat tool to scrape the skin and burst blood vessels in the middle skin layer. The objective is to create small wounds, known as petechiae, that prompt the body to alter the immune system and heal them effectively.

    Gua sha therapy can relieve TMJ disorder symptoms since it helps to increase circulation in the area and alleviate pressure.