Cupping & Gua Sha
What is Gua Sha?
Gua sha is a natural, alternative therapy that involves scraping your skin with a massage tool to improve your circulation. This ancient Chinese healing technique may offer a unique approach to better health, addressing issues like chronic pain.
In Gua Sha, a technician scrapes your skin with short or long strokes to stimulate microcirculation of the soft tissue, which increases blood flow. They make these strokes with a smooth-edged instrument known as a gua massage tool. The technician applies massage oil to your skin, and then uses the tool to repeatedly scrape your skin in a downward motion.
Gua sha is intended to address stagnant energy, called chi, in the body that practitioners believe may be responsible for inflammation. Inflammation is the underlying cause of several conditions associated with chronic pain. Rubbing the skin’s surface is thought to help break up this energy, reduce inflammation, and promote healing.
Gua sha is generally performed on a person’s back, buttocks, neck, arms, and legs. A gentle version of it is even used on the face as a facial technique. Your technician may apply mild pressure, and gradually increase intensity to determine how much force you can handle.
Gua sha may reduce inflammation, so it’s often used to treat ailments that cause chronic pain, such as arthritis and fibromyalgia, as well as those that trigger muscle and joint pain.
What is Cupping?
Cupping is a type of alternative therapy that originated in China. It involves placing cups on the skin to create suction. The suction may facilitate healing with blood flow.
Proponents also claim the suction helps facilitate the flow of “qi” in the body. Qi is a Chinese word meaning life force. A famous Taoist alchemist and herbalist, Ge Hong, reportedly first practiced cupping. He lived from A.D. 281 to 341.
Many Taoists believe that cupping helps balance yin and yang, or the negative and positive, within the body. Restoring balance between these two extremes is thought to help with the body’s resistance to pathogens as well as its ability to increase blood flow and reduce pain.
The 2016 summer Olympics had its share of exciting performances, upsets, and photo finishes. But for days after Michael Phelps’s first appearance at the games, it seemed all anyone could talk about was “cupping.” It’s an ancient therapy that left multiple circular discolorations on his skin. During “dry cupping,” suction is applied to the skin for several minutes; sometimes it is combined with massage, acupuncture, or other alternative therapies. (“Wet cupping” is similar except that blood is removed by making small cuts in the skin.)
Cupping increases blood circulation to the area where the cups are placed. This may relieve muscle tension, which can improve overall blood flow and promote cell repair. It may also help form new connective tissues and create new blood vessels in the tissue. The discoloration is due to broken blood vessels just beneath the skin, much like a bruise. But that’s only the beginning. Cupping has also been used for
- back and neck pain
- skin diseases such as acne and hives
- lowering cholesterol
- knee arthritis
- improving immune function.