“Acupuncture and cupping, more than half of the ills cured.” Famous Chinese saying, author unknown
It is best to consult a licensed Acupuncturist or massage therapist for any of these procedures, but you can self-practice if you are careful and clearly understand what to do. Each of these three methods originated as a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and are routinely practiced by TCM doctors and practitioners alike. I’ve tried them all and have found that they all are helpful, especially for pain. However, bear in mind that dark bruising occurs during cupping and scraping and are a natural part of the treatment and expect the moxibustion herbs to sometimes get unpleasantly warm.
Cupping is an ancient practice used by many different civilizations to heal various maladies. In modern times, much like in times of old, it involves a practitioner attaching a “cup” to any area of the body and creating a fiction between the cup and the skin of the client. It can be quite an unpleasant feeling at first, but the intensity of it lessens the longer the cup is on. There are a number of different types of cups and techniques, but the feeling and function is largely the same. You will be bruised for 10-15 days after a cupping procedure. Keep this in mind when considering it as a therapy.
How Does Cupping Work?
Cups are attached to the skin to disperse and break up stagnation and congestion via sucking congested blood or other stuck energies up to the surface of the skin. Cupping is widely used where there is pain in the body. In Chinese Medicine, there is a well-known saying that practitioners of cupping follow: “Where there’s stagnation, there will be pain. Remove the stagnation, and you remove the pain.” Cupping also works by increasing blood flow to the affected area, decreasing inflammation, and boosting the immune system.
Known as Gua sha in TCM, scraping therapy involves using an instrument to scrape over a designated area of the skin to improve circulation. Many different tools are used – including coins, scraping combs, strong sticks, shaped gemstones and other specially designed tools. Some of the advantages of scraping therapy include a decrease in overall treatment/recovery time, reduction of the need for anti-inflammatory medication, and effective treatment of some chronic conditions. It can be unpleasant as it is slightly uncomfortable. As with cupping, scraping can cause bruises that last 10-15 days.
How Does Scraping Work?
Just like cupping, scraping improves circulation. Use of this technique is common in TCM, sport rehabilitation centers, and chiropractic offices because it aids in breaking down scar tissue, which provides a better healing environment for injured soft tissue. Scraping therapy has been shown to decrease treatment/recovery time in cases of strained and pulled muscles, ligaments and tendons, and it lessens the need for anti-inflammatory medication.
Moxibustion involves the burning of a small herb known as mugwort to strengthen the blood, get stagnant energy to flow again, and to maintain general health. In Western medicine it has been used, with some success, to encourage breech babies to turn into a head-down position prior to childbirth. According to the article by Deng and Shen, moxibustion is used to treat up to 364 kinds of disease in China.
How It Works
There are two types of moxibustion. The first type is direct moxibustion; the second is indirect moxibustion. In direct moxibustion a small amount of mugwort is put on the appropriate acupuncture point and burned until it completely burns out and scars the skin. In indirect moxibustion, mugwort is lit and remains on the skin until it turns red, but is extinguished before it burns out completely and thus does not scar the skin. It is used in TCM to cure and prevent certain types of diseases.
Written by Dr. Lola Scarborough
League City, Texas