The effects of Gua sha on symptoms and inflammatory biomarkers associated with chronic low back pain: A randomized active-controlled crossover pilot study in elderly

Wai Man Yuen, Wai Nam Tsang, Sonny H.M. Tse, Wings T.Y. Loo, Suk Tak Chan, Diana L.Y. Wong, Hilary H.Y. Chung, Jacky K.K. Tam, Thomas K.S. Choi, Vico C.L. Chiang

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Design A pilot randomized crossover study was conducted with hydrocollator-based hot pack therapy as active control. Pain intensity, physical disability, depression, general health status, and salivary biomarkers were assessed as outcome measures. Results Despite there was no significant difference observed between any outcome measures attained by the two interventions, several important differences were noted during the one-week follow-up period. The magnitudes of pain reduction (21–25% versus 16–18%) and disability improvement (45–52% versus 39–42%) were greater in the Gua sha-treated group than the hot pack group. Both treatments were shown to improve flexion, extension and bending movements of the lower back, whereas areas of improvement varied between the two interventions. Decreasing trends were observed in both tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) and heme-oxygenase-1 (HO-1) levels following Gua sha. However, rebounds of the biomarkers were observed one week following hot pack. Furthermore, in response to Gua sha, the decrease of TNF-α was strongly correlated with the improvement of physical disability, whereas the physical disability was correlated with the VAS pain intensity. Conclusion It demonstrated a feasible clinical trial protocol for evaluating the effectiveness of Gua sha and other therapeutic modalities. Gua sha may exhibit a more long-lasting anti-inflammatory effect relative to hot pack for pain relief and improved mobility in elderly patients with chronic low back pain.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-32
Number of pages8
JournalComplementary Therapies in Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017


  • Crossover
  • Elderly
  • Gua sha
  • Hot pack
  • Low back pain
  • Randomized controlled study

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Complementary and Manual Therapy
  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Advanced and Specialised Nursing

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