Acupuncture is Effective for Chronic Pain Beyond the Placebo Effect: The Science of Gua sha Therapy

Acupuncture is Effective for Chronic Pain Beyond the Placebo Effect: The Science of Gua sha Therapy

Lorne Brown

I am grateful I have had three opportunities to listen to Arya Nielsen's lecture on the Science of Gua sha. The first time was when I was attending the TCM Kongress  (May 2013 - Germany), then again at the AIMS Conference (Toronto - September 2013), and finally most recently when I was reviewing the online lecture on the topic she created for and Pro D Seminars.

Arya's lecture, The Science of Gua Sha, has inspired me by clearly demonstrating that Gua sha works, and she supports her claims with evidence-based science. Her lecture provided a welcomed boost in my confidence of the effectiveness of Chinese medicine. In a nutshell, Gua sha therapy produces an anti-inflammatory and immune protectant effect that treats pain, acute and chronic illness with potential to slow degeneration of chronic internal organ disease.

By resolving Blood stasis Gua sha has a role in treating:

  • Acute or chronic musculoskeletal pain from injury, overuse or illness
  • Acute illnesses including fever, sinusitis, influenza, bronchitis, Lyme Disease, Dengue fever, malaria, etc*
  • Chronic illnesses and conditions including auto immune disorders: Crohns disease, Colitis, Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis, Sarcoidosis etc.
  • Chronic internal organ disease: cardiovascular, pulmonary, hepatic and renal**

*Gua sha is not a substitute for Western medical care. Rather, Gua sha is part of traditional East Asian medicine that can be used with patients in conjunction with recommendations by their physician(s).

**Gua sha’s upregulation of HO-1 in turn acts as a cell protectant that slows internal organ degeneration in chronic internal organ disease.

I want to share with you the lecture from Arya Nielsen's Module 1 Pro D Seminars online course, The Science of Gua Sha: Anti inflammation and Immune Protections, with the intention it will inspire & motivate you to safely and effectively use this therapy in practice and provide you with the confidence that Gua sha works when applied correctly!  Warning: she is an inspiring lecturer and excellent teacher so it very likely that after watching this free lecture you will desire to learn more and wanting to take all 11 modules. :-)

Please sign up through Pro D Seminars to receive access to the free lecture by Arya on The Science of Gua sha. This is the lecture that motivated me to bring back this therapy into my practice.  I have been pleasantly surprised by how much patients enjoy the Gua sha sessions and the pain relief it has provided.

Arya has made another contribution to our profession for which I am grateful and is worth sharing and acknowledging.  I am not crushing on Arya but it is hard for me to not like someone who sets the record straight when it comes to the effectiveness of acupuncture.

She recently successfully engaged with the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) to update their website so it clearly states acupuncture is effective for chronic pain beyond the placebo effect.
Please see excerpt below regarding Dr. Nielsen below from the Integrative Medicine, Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Health Round-up #82: August 2014.  written by John Weeks 

Nielsen: informing NCCAM

NCCAM-ipedia: agency responds (sort-of) to corrective appeal on acupuncture and chronic pain.

When New York Beth Israel acupuncturist Arya Nielsen, PhD, Ac, reviewed the NCCAM website on chronic pain last March she concluded that the site did not fully reflect present evidence, to the detriment of her field: "It seemed dated and oddly biased." Rather than simply complain, Nielsen, who in 2013 instigated the campaign to get the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations to re-open its guidelines on non-pharmacological approaches, put together what she called a "lit review" case for a change. On August 7, 2014, Nielsen shared with the Integrator that "we heard this morning they have updated their page informed by what we sent." The site now includes reference to two meta-analyses "that conclude acupuncture is effective for chronic pain beyond the placebo effect." She adds, however, "that the site doesn't exactly reflect it." She and her colleague are responding again.  Nielsen also serves as director of the Acupuncture Fellowship for NY Beth Israel.

Comment: Someone should give Nielsen an action award for, in this 12 month period, getting both the Joint Commission and NCCAM to engage changes in their documents. Thank you, Arya. And credit NCCAM for its responsiveness to good, if formerly overlooked, data.
Source: The Integrator Blog

About Arya Nielsen, PhD

Dr. Nielsen is an American acupuncturist trained in the classical lineage of Dr. James Tin Yau So and in practice for over 37 years (2014). She is author of the defining textbook: Gua sha, A Traditional Technique for Modern Practice, the Gua sha DVD and numerous articles on East Asian medicine.  She has a faculty appointment at Mount Sinai Beth Israel, a New York teaching hospital where she practices and directs the Acupuncture Fellowship for Inpatient Care. Dr. Nielsen is a researcher and international lecturer on topics related to East Asian and Integrative medicine. She developed and teaches the Gua sha Certification Course, which is available online through Pro D Seminars. Her homepage is


Upcoming Live webinars approved for CPD/CEU/PDA

  1. Introducing Functional Medicine into Your Acupuncture Clinic - September 21 & 22, 2014

  2. All Diseases become Autoimmune: Preventing & Reversing the Autoimmune Process - October 12, 2014 (early bird discount ends September 30th)

  3. Gua Sha Certification with Dr. Arya Nielsen - October 2014

  4. The Forgotten Pillar of Chinese Medicine - November 1 & 2 , 2014

  5. Electro-Acupuncture for Pain and Orthopedic Conditions - December 7th


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So many people need this form of alternative treatment. It's hard to believe that acupuncture is not more popular already. Modern medicine people like Dr. Dolf Ichtertz Nebraska acknowledge the immense contribution acupuncture brings to the medical world overall. We should all take the time and learn more about it, it could make a huge difference in our healing process.

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Hey! I am not crushing on


I am not crushing on Arya but it is hard for me to not like someone who sets the record straight when it comes to the effectiveness of acupuncture.

Joseph @