Cupping and Gua Sha
The back story…
Chinese Medicine has great ways to empower people to be responsible for their own health, and some amazing therapies to boot! It has a huge history with many contributors over the last 2000+ years. The earliest historical documentation of people using Chinese medicine stems from the Shang dynasty (c.1600-1046BCE).
Acupuncture – Rebalancing the bodily landscape
A lot of people are a bit squeamish when it comes to the idea of needles. That is completely fair enough, however there’s something you should know: It doesn’t usually hurt – especially if the needles you use are very good quality, very sharp and very fine. Nowadays, in Australia, each needle is single-use and disposable, and comes in its own single blister-pack. This helps to ensure that no infection is passed on via the needle. Sometimes people are surprised at the places where acupuncture needles go, but it can be in many different areas in the body. The most common areas are hands, feet, arms, legs and stomach, or in the meridians that run up and down the back either side of the spine. Acupuncture has been used traditionally for a huge range of health problems, from depression and anxiety to immune disorders and colds and flu. There are also traditional branches of Acupuncture specifically devoted to pregnancy, fertility, preparation for labor, and paediatrics. Acupuncture isn’t just for muscle pain, although modern research shows it can be helpful in numerous musculoskeletal pain conditions (Cohen et al, 2017; Vickers et al, 2018; de Ara et al, 2019).
There are so many different styles of acupuncture and each one suits a different type of person, with different health complaints. Traditional Chinese-style acupuncture is often used for musculoskeletal issues and pain, where Japanese style – very superficial and more energetically focussed, with super-fine filament needles – is used more for emotional issues and where patients are very sensitive. Some patients need 5-element style point therapy, some need Dr Tan’s balance method, some need esoteric style acupuncture, and some need a complete absence of needles and a focus on bodywork, massage, moxa, cupping or gua sha.
Please let us know if you’re sensitive at the beginning of the consultation and we will work with you to find a comfortable and sustainable way for you to enjoy the session.
Chinese Herbs – Personal potions for maximum empowerment.
What’s on the menu?
In Chinese Herbal Medicine we use a HUGE variety of different substances, for many different types of disease. As with Acupuncture, it’s very diverse. There are leaves, roots, twigs, flowers, bark, and even rocks and sea shells, all combined together to tailor-make a very specific and personalised formula for each patient. Because Chinese Medicine is based on individual TCM diagnosis, therapies and formulas are completely different for each person. In case you are concerned, we don’t use animal products other than sea shells because of the cruelty factor, and species endangerment. The same applies to plants – we never use endangered plant species in a herbal formulas.
Raw herbs, you say?
Well. The super special thing about this clinic is our collection of beautiful, pure RAW herbs, which you can watch being dispensed in the waiting area. They really are beautiful. Many clinics don’t stock them because of space considerations, and because patients find them time consuming to boil. But all good things take time, and the reward far outweighs the effort.
Herbs also come in granulated form – a soluble powder which is portable, convenient and easy to take, although not as strong as raw. If taste is an issue – some folks really can’t stomach the flavour of herbs – honey based drops can also be provided. Patent pills can also be dispensed for travel purposes. Chinese Herbal medicine is usually dispensed in the amount applicable for one to two weeks’ dosage at a time. This is so the practitioner can monitor how clients are going with the herbs, and add or subtract things from the formula as the condition changes, and adapt accordingly. All herbs are issued with a prescription with the name of each herb in Pinyin (the Anglicised version of Chinese) and the dosage. Then, if you’re that way inclined, you can look them up on Google.
Diet Therapy – How do YOU nourish yourself?
Ancient Chinese physician Sun Si Miao was a firm advocate for healthy diets, and said, “Treat the diet first” when any disease arose. We follow that philosophy, but also try and incorporate modern Western diets and lifestyle factors to make treatment with diet therapy sustainable, tasty and fun. Food is such and amazing part of who we are as individuals – our tastes and preferences tell a lot about our internal health as well. Because we eat numerous times a day, a healthy relationship with food is paramount when it comes to how we nourish ourselves. We give you easy recipes and suggest foods to either add in with your existing diet, or eliminate from it. Supplements are also sometimes recommended. Diet therapy is included in Acupuncture and Herbal Medicine consultations and helps to make them more holistic in nature.
Cupping – Restoring circulation, unblocking pathways
Way back in the Shang Dynasty (1766BCE-1122BCE), people believed that disease was caused by the spirits of their angry ancestors who had not received enough offerings of rice at the family altar. They developed cupping therapy to remove negative influences which they believed had been put in people’s bodies by those ancestors – by creating a suction cup, originally made of bamboo or buffalo horn, but now made of glass, they could extract the “evil” or “pernicious” influences that invaded and caused disease. Cupping was used extensively by a physician named Ge Hong (281-341AD) who described techniques in one of his books, the Zhou Hou Jiu Zu Fang (A Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies) (Li & Liang, 2016). Nowadays, we know that cupping stretches skin and muscles, opening them up, increasing blood flow to the area and allowing the body to carry away “blocked Qi and Blood” to be processed by the Liver and Kidneys. An ancient rationale, however an effective clinical tool that’s great for helping to relieve pain and increase circulation (Chi et al 2016). Cupping is, if necessary, incorporated into acupuncture treatment, and takes 5 – 10 minutes. It stems from the shamanic roots of modern Chinese medicine.
Gua Sha – Scraping away the pain
Gua Sha involves using a ceramic soup spoon, small sauce plate or a specifically designed tool to scrape the surface of oiled skin, creating redness, known as “Sha”. It stems from similar principles to cupping, however it acts more on the surface and is used for more “exterior” diseases, like colds and flu. It is most commonly performed on the back, neck and shoulders, but can sometimes be used on the chest. Gua Sha is usually an adjunct therapy and may be performed (with consent, of course!) during an acupuncture treatment. Gua Sha has been found to increase range of movement and relieve pain in the short term by increasing microcirculation at the skin surface (Neilsen, 2009).
Moxibustion – If it’s cold, warm it up!
Moxibustion is affectionately know by practitioners as “Moxa” and involves burning the “floss”, or hairy parts under the leaves, of a herb we commonly know of in the West as Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris). Similar to the Chinese version of the Native American practice of smudging, moxa may be used in many different contexts. There are also many different means of applying moxa treatment, including directly on the skin (taken off before it burns, of course), in a stick in its raw form, compressed, charred and powdered into a smokeless stick, or on the ends of needles during an acupuncture session. Moxa has been investigated extensively as an adjunct therapy for many different complaints in recent years, and research on the anti-malarial properties of it its primary active ingredient – Artemisin – won the Nobel Prize in 2015.
Thanks for reading.
If your questions go further than this,
Chi, L.-M., Lin, L.-M., Chen, C.-L., Wang, S.-F., Lai, H.-L., & Peng, T.-C. (2016). The Effectiveness of Cupping Therapy on Relieving Chronic Neck and Shoulder Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2016, 1–7. doi:10.1155/2016/7358918
Cohen, M. M., et al. (2017). “Acupuncture for analgesia in the emergency department: a multicentre, randomised, equivalence and non‐inferiority trial.” Medical Journal of Australia 206(11): 494-499.
Li, M., & Liang, Y. (2016). Ge Hong and Zhou Hou Jiu Zu Fang (A Handbook of Formulas for Emergencies). Journal of Traditional Chinese Medical Sciences, 1(3), 1-2.
Nielsen, A. (2009). Gua sha research and the language of integrative medicine. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 13(1), 63-72.
Vickers, A. J., et al. (2018). “Acupuncture for Chronic Pain: Update of an Individual Patient Data Meta-Analysis.” The Journal of Pain 19(5): 455-474.