Cupping and Gua Sha are cutaneous techniques which encourage circulation of blood, lymph and Qi and the removal of metabolic waste in the skin 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 affect 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 and knots, 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 firmly pull the superficial tissues. A vacuum is created either by a momentary application of an open flame to the inside of the cup or the use of a hand pump. Originally cups were made from animal horn, bones or nut shells, while today they are most commonly made of glass, rubber, bamboo 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 tissue regeneration. The sensation of cupping is warm and relaxing.