In addition to acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine also uses cupping to address issues such as blood stagnation and the blockage of Qi for conditions such as muscle tension and pain, digestive issues and respiratory problems. Cupping was developed thousands of years ago, and though the techniques have modernized, the original philosophy of this deep tissue therapy remains the same—enhance circulation, help relieve pain and clear inflammation. One way to think about cupping is that it is the inverse of massage. Rather than applying pressure to muscles, the suction uses pressure to pull skin, tissue and muscles upward.
Cupping involves placing glass, silicone or plastic jars on the skin and creating a vacuum by suctioning out the air. The underlying tissue is raised partway into the cup. This technique encourages both the flow of energy and blood along the meridian paths best suited to address the illness or injury.
When being treated by cupping, you usually will feel a drawing-up sensation in the area of the cup. Often, this sensation is relaxing and soothing. Depending on your comfort and your practitioner’s assessment of the problem, cups may be moved around or left in place. One very common area to be cupped is the back, although cups work well on other areas, too — particularly on fleshy sections of the body.
According to traditional Chinese medicine theory, using gua sha treatments increase blood circulation to an injured area, which helps alleviate pain. While this is an Eastern medicine technique, Western medicine acknowledges the results: Gua sha decreases inflammation and pain.
The first written records of gua sha date back 700 years though the practice is thought to be much older than that. Gua sha may have been discovered as the simple reflex of rubbing a painful area to make the pain go away. The term gua sha means the act of rubbing the skin to remove an energy blockage. An experienced practitioner will use a smooth rounded-edge tool to rub the skin in a specific manner to draw fresh blood to the affected area.
Besides decreasing the perception of pain, gua sha also calms your nervous system and reduces the stress and anxiety that arise from pain, allowing the body’s inherent healing mechanisms to be expressed. Gua sha treatments lead to the increased speed of healing and improved resilience to injury and disease.