Acupuncture Therapies: Moxibustion, Cupping, and Gua Sha

Acupuncture is a powerful and versatile therapy.

Acupuncture therapy is more than just acupuncture.  We will also include techniques such as moxibustion, gua sha, and cupping.

Moxibustion

moxabustion on back
Warming the needle moxibustion

Moxibustion is the burning of an herb call mugwort close to specific acupuncture points or on the needle itself.  It is used to warm and add energy to the acupuncture point.  It also is good for moving stagnation.

Moxibustion may be used to joint pain to remove the cold from the joints. It is also famously used in pregnancy with breech birth.

Moxibustion can be done by warming the needle, as in this photo.  It can also be used with a cigar like moxibustion stick or small moxibustion pieces directly on the skin.

Gua Sha

Gua Sha Spoon
Gua Sha Spoon on the neck

Gua sha is the rubbing of an instrument on the skin. There are specific gua sha tools or one can simply use a porcelain soup spoon.

Often it is done on the upper and lower back, neck, and the ribs. Gua sha has been used a as a home remedy for a long time.  Frequently, people will use it for colds and fever, nausea, and chronic pain. I have found it is also helpful for inhibited urination in chronic pelvic pain.

Recently it has become popular additional therapy in facial rejuvenation.

Gua sha will break the blood vessels below the skin causing a bruise.  On the face it is done lightly and does not bruise.   In Chinese medicine we say this breaks blood stagnation and releases heat.  Interestingly, if there is not too much heat present, or there is no blood stagnation, it does not create a bruise.

Cupping

cupping on backCupping works in conjunction with acupuncture to relax muscles and increase circulation.  During this therapy, glass, wooden, or plastic cups are applied to the skin.  The inside of the cup is depressurized with a flame or a vacuum, so it then lifts up the skin below it.

This often leaves round bruises, which are mostly painless.  It helps to relax the muscles and increase circulation.

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Joseph Alban, L.Ac.
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