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The Mysterious Link Between Cellulite
& Pain (And How Gua Sha Can Help)

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The Mysterious Link Between Cellulite & Pain (And How Gua Sha Can Help)

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Call us anatomy nerds, but we’re never not in awe of the body and all it does to keep us feeling alive. Indeed, the body is a creative communicator. It has its ways of telling us externally when something is off internally, or vice versa. Some are easy enough to interpret: when we’re dehydrated (hi, here’s your friendly reminder to take a sip of agua), our skin may feel dry or we’ll experience the dreaded dehydration headache. Our working theory is that body pain isn’t so different. We developed a system to take care of the body, and by doing a quick “gua sha test” you may be able to discover which areas need a little more TLC. Read on to learn more and to get instructions on the test.

What is the main cause of cellulite?

Cellulite occurs when the layers of connective tissue under our skin become “bunched” (we’ll geek out more on that later) due to repetitive movement or lack of movement. While we believe there’s absolutely nothing wrong with cellulite — it’s totally natural and happens to pretty much everybody — recent research reveals that it could be linked to patterns of movement in the body that are not helping us. In other words, we’ve been looking at it the wrong way all this time! Rather than being a source of body image stress or shame, cellulite can act as a helpful indicator, alerting us of a site of present or future pain via stagnation. Gua sha treatment is a natural way to address cellulite, and in turn, potential pain in the body.

Let’s zoom out for a moment. It’s important to recognize the origins of gua sha. Gua sha is a healing method that utilizes a flat tool made of jade or another stone to scrape the skin, bringing blood and energy to a specific area of the body. It’s derived from Traditional Chinese Medicine and has been practiced for thousands of years in ancient China and beyond. According to its core principles, stagnation is the root of dis-ease. In this case, stagnation refers to areas in the body where energy is blocked. Stuck energy in the body, according to traditional wisdom, can cause health problems like pain (and others too: infertility, irritable bowels, irregular periods, acne, and so on). Luckily, pain is a symptom that we can help with practices like gua sha therapy. 

If you sense your cellulite is a “problem area,” it’s not problematic because of its visual appearance, but rather, it could be a sign that it’s a site of stagnation due to tense and bound fascia that lies underneath, which causes the dimpled appearance in the first place. 

Read more: The benefits of full body gua sha, explained.

Can you get rid of cellulite? 

Yes, you can likely get rid of it to some degree. With a healthy gua sha practice, movement, stretching, proper hydration, and of course the right skin care products. Cellulite is often a manifestation of contracted fascia (the body’s connective tissues) which can cause pockets of fat to form together in a dimpled way. If we were to take a cross section of your skin, connective tissue, and muscles, healthy fascia would look kind of like smooth layers in a cake. Working through the fascia regularly with a practice like body gua sha massage can help loosen and release these bunched pockets. Not only will your skin look smoother, but it’s likely your body can feel less tense and possibly more energized. 

Read more: How to do full body gua sha, step by step.

Take this example (one we know all too well, because let’s be real, it’s us): you’re sitting at your desk (or kitchen table, or on your sofa), so focused on whatever you’re doing that you don’t realize you haven’t really moved or changed your physical position for hours. This goes for weeks, months, maybe years. If you’re noticing more cellulite in your thighs and bum (and possibly some growing tension), it could be a symptom of this scenario. When we spend too much time sitting or straining our bodies in a number of ways, tension builds, our fascia bunches, and cellulite forms in pockets. Tension in the body is the first stop on the underlying pain train, and working through the fascia can help you get off this track. 

How do I get rid of cellulite on my legs? 

The short answer: dry brushing, proper movement, massage, and a regular gua sha practice, combined with nourishing and smoothing oils and serums for the skin. But in order to really answer this question, we need to consider the body as whole. When you see cellulite on your legs, think of it as one way your body can communicate. You can use cellulite as a guide to where your body is asking for some love. 

And now for the gua sha test! Our co-founder Gianna de la Torre, L.Ac. often finds that areas where there is cellulite feel more tender than others. This is because the connective tissues underneath have been under some level of tension. To do the test, simply put on an oil (like our Aura Body Oil) and run your gua sha stone (we love the Aura Stone) over the area. How tender is it? If some areas feel more tender than others, try focusing on those to start. 

Along with massages, gua sha is a natural way to get rid of cellulite, smooth your fascia, and release the tension from your muscles (and much less expensive than regular massage). With the ritual of gua sha, you’re opening up the flow of your qi — the ancient Chinese idea of life force that flows within all beings — to clear stagnation and invigorate your muscles. With time, you’ll notice that your gua sha practice may make dimpled skin appear smoother through stimulating blood flow and breaking up tension in the fascia. 

Dry brushing is another natural and easy way to address skin texture. Our Aura Sweeper is a body brushing tool that helps stimulate lymph flow, boost circulation, and exfoliate your skin — it’ll feel super soft after just a few rounds! A regular brushing ritual helps reduce the appearance of dimpled skin by increasing blood flow, which can ultimately have pain-alleviating effects too. We recommend doing this step as a primer to body gua sha for best results. 

Learn more: How the Aura Stone can help with a smooth, toned butt.

At the end of the day, we are pro-body — there is absolutely nothing wrong with cellulite! We’ve worked hard to come to peace with ours. But if you’re experiencing pain in your body, using cellulite as a map could be an excellent place to start your body gua sha ritual. As always, make sure you’re doing what feels right for your body — physically and emotionally. The ritual should feel good!