Cupping and Gua Sha(刮痧)are cutaneous techniques which encourage circulation of blood, lymph and Qi and the removal of metabolic waste in the skin, fascia, and superficial muscle tissues.  Although both techniques are strongly associated with Chinese medicine, both Cupping and Gua Sha have played a role in the healing traditions of many cultures across Asia and in Greece, Africa and amongst the Native Americans.

In Chinese medicine, diseases are understood to effect different levels of the body, from the most superficial skin level to the deepest organ level. Determining how deep a pathogen is in the body is critical for proper TCM pattern diagnosis and in formulating a treatment plan.  Ailments defined as being on the surface of the body, such as acute colds, fevers, muscle aches, soft-tissue tension and pain and knots in the superficial fascia known as "trigger points", chest congestion or tissue adhesions, respond well to the application of Gua Sha or Cupping.  Either therapy may be recommended to stimulate the immune system as a preventative action against colds and flus.

Cupping therapy employs the use of suction between a cup and the patient’s skin to gentle pull the superficial tissues.  A vacuum is created either by a momentary application of an open flame (we won't burn you!) to the inside of the cup or the use of a hand pump.  Originally cups were made from animal horn, bones, bamboo segments, or even nut shells, while today they are most commonly made of glass, silicone, or plastic.  The creation of suction is used to enhance circulation and lymphatic drainage which assists the tissues in the processing of metabolic waste and regeneration.  The sensation of cupping is warm and relaxing.

Both Cupping and Gua Sha leave a ‘Sha’ mark on the skin, similar to bruise or "hickey"(you remember!).  This effect is not painful and resolves in a few days time. The occurrence of ‘Sha’ marks on the skin, the depth of color and the time it takes to resolve, may even provide us with further diagnostic information about your response to treatment, which can help us more effectively treat you in the future.

Boyd is a Certified Cupping Therapist with the International Cupping Therapy Association.


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