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Cupping & Gua Sha

Cupping and Gua Sha are some of the oldest and most spectacular forms of therapy that we have.   Both modalites have the intention of invogorating circulation in the muscles and sub-cutaneous layer of the skin to promote healing.  Many times what results are circular-looking bruises or petechia on the skin that are stagnant blood and cellular metabolic wastes being flushed out of the muscles and back into the normal circulation to be disposed of by the body.  The Chinese poetically call the marks produced ‘Evil Dampness.’

What is cupping?

Cupping is a modality that uses small glass cups to produce a suction on the skin that pulls the stagnant fluids and blood mentioned above into the skin.  From there, circulation can dispose of the cellular wastes that have become stuck within the tissues of the muscles.  When used in conjunction with acupuncture it is highly effective for pain that is non-specific and ‘muscle-achy’ in nature.  Research is currently being done on its therapeutic use with fibromyalgia.

Another potent use is its ability to sooth the tissues of the respiratory system.  Cupping can be used on the upper back to calm the symptoms of repiratory diseases such as the common cold, broncitis, and pneumonia.  Besides relieving the symptoms, this therapy can also speed up the healing process by moving lymph and strengthening the immune system.

What is Gua Sha?

Gua Sha involves the repeated stroking of the skin with a smooth edge.  Traditionally this was done with an animal bone, a smoothed piece of jade, a worn coin, or even a ceramic soup spoon.  The skin is oiled and the edge is scraped along the acupuncture meridians or the bodies of certain muscles.  The technique used is ‘friction-stroking.’  This causes extravasation of blood from the peripheral capillaries and may result in sub-cutaneous blemishing (ecchymosis), which usually takes 2–4 days to fade.  This blemishing is therapeutic to the patient and diagnostic for the acupuncturist.  In cases of long-standing tension, holding patterns, and pain, the color will be a deep purple and is sign that of a deeper level of stagnation.  If the ‘Sha’ that comes up is more red in color, it can be a sign of an inflammatory response and a less chronic situation.