Attention, Desk Slouchers: Gua Sha Can Help to Improve Your Posture

Photo: Getty Images/JGalione
Using only your hands in your skin-care routine is so passé. One glance around beauty shelves and on beauty influencers' social media feeds and you're definitely going to see plenty of ancient skin-care tools—like jade rollers and gua sha—because those old-school staples are back, baby.

And not only do these crystalline gadgets look really, really pretty in Instagram photos, but they also happen to have real benefits. Gua sha, for example, is a Traditional Chinese Medicine practice that involves massaging a sharp-edged crystal tool across your body and/or your face for pain relief and sculpting purposes. It's been on the rise as a beauty ritual as of late, since it's got tension-relieving, circulation-boosting, and lymphatic-drainage promoting abilities. But then a TCM pro told me another power I never realized that little crystal tool could have: Gua sha can be used for better posture.

"Gua sha can be used on the body as well as the face to relieve pain and tension," says Dr. Nadia Musavvir, a licensed naturopathic doctor. And if you, like me, spend approximately 24/7 hunched over a computer, well, the source of that "pain and tension" is glaringly obvious.  "During times of stress, it's common to subconsciously hold tension in the neck and shoulders, causing tightening of the muscles which often brings your shoulders up and rounded forward—especially if you're sitting at a desk all day."

That's where gua sha comes in as a massaging technique. "Using gua sha along these shoulder muscles can help loosen the tightness and improve your posture," says Dr. Musavvir. "With regular use of a gua sha on tight areas combined with stretching your shoulders and back, you may see improvements in your overall posture and a reduction in that pain that's related to slouching."

Her pro tip is to make sure you're doing it when the skin is  moisturized—not dry. "This allows the gua sha to glide easily and not pull or hurt the skin," she explains. "For pain, I recommend using gua sha with an arnica oil or CBD-based balm. My best practice is to glide from midline, outward. For example, for your shoulders and neck, start at the base of the skull and with firm pressure glide the gua sha along towards the shoulders. With your chest, start at the midline of your sternum, under the collarbone, and glide outwards toward the shoulders." My slouching self is trying this ASAP.

It'll also help relieve that tension if you try these exercises for rounded shoulders, and check out these tried-and-true bad posture desk stretches to keep your neck and shoulders happy. 

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