Cupping is a technique in which glass cups are heated from the inside with fire to create a vacuum and then placed on the afflicted area of the body. The cup's suction pulls at the skin and is said to "suck out" the body's toxins. Sound uncomfortable? If done correctly, the practice can actually relieve much of the body's discomfort caused by the congestion of blood, energy or mucus, as well as swelling or pain, according to "The Herbs Of Life" author Lesley Tierra.
Cupping is said to help improve circulation and "to 'open' the lungs, draw toxins out of them and towards the skin surface and to facilitate better breathing," writes "Heart Disease" author Burton Goldberg. More in line with ancient Chinese philosophy, cupping "is believed to draw out Cold, Wind, and Damp," writes Michael Castleman in "Blended Medicine." Cupping can be effective for a wide range of ailments, according to Tierra, including "edema, swellings, asthma, bronchitis, dull aches and pains, arthritis, abdominal pain, stomachache, indigestion, headache, low back pain, painful menstruation, coughs from excessive mucus and places where bodily movement is limited and painful." Request Appointment Online
The heated cups used in the technique are placed on the skin above the pained muscle area or above an acupuncture point at the afflicted area. "The vacuum created by the heat is said to dispel dampness from the body, warm the qi and reduce swelling," writes Barrie R. Cassileth, PhD., in "The Alternative Medicine Handbook." The cups are left in place for five to 15 minutes, and when removed, they usually leave a round red bruise behind. According to Tierra, bruising occurs in spots where congestion existed. Although bruises can take several days to go away, the temporary marks are a small price to pay for the relief the therapy provides. Tierra says people suffering from either pain or congestion often notice an immediate difference after treatment.
Moxabustion (or Moxa)
Practitioners use moxa to warm regions and acupuncture points with the intention of stimulating circulation through the points and inducing a smoother flow of blood and qi. Scientific research has shown that mugwort acts as an emmenagogue, meaning that it stimulates blood-flow in the pelvic area and uterus. It is claimed that moxibustion militates against cold and dampness in the body and can supposedly serve to turn breech babies.
Medical historians believe that moxibustion pre-dated acupuncture, and needling came to supplement moxa after the 2nd century BC. Different schools of acupuncture use moxa in varying degrees. For example a 5-element acupuncturist will use moxa directly on the skin, whilst a TCM-style practitioner will use rolls of moxa and hold them over the point treated. It can also be burnt atop a fine slice of ginger root to prevent scarring.
Practitioners consider moxibustion to be especially effective in the treatment of chronic problems, "deficient conditions" (weakness), and gerontology. Bian Que (fl. circa 500 BC), one of the most famous semi-legendary doctors of Chinese antiquity and the first specialist in moxibustion, discussed the benefits of moxa over acupuncture in his classic work. He asserted that moxa could add new energy to the body and could treat both excess and deficient conditions. On the other hand, he advised against the use of acupuncture in an already deficient (weak) patient, on the grounds that needle manipulation would leak too much energy.
A huge classical work, Gao Huang Shu (膏肓俞), specializes solely in treatment indications for moxa on a single point (穴).
Note that Taoists use scarring moxibustion along with Chinese medical astrology for longevity.
Practitioners may use acupuncture needles made of various materials in combination with moxa, depending on the direction of qi flow they wish to stimulate.
History of Tuina
Tuina dates to the Shang Dynasty, around 1700 BC. Ancient inscriptions on oracle bones show that massage was used to treat infants and adult digestive conditions. In his book "Jin Dui Yao Lue", Zhang Zhongjing, a famous physician in the Han Dynasty (206 BC), wrote, "As soon as the heavy sensation of the limbs is felt, "Daoyin", "Tuina", "Zhenjiu" and "Gaomo", all of which are therapeutic methods, are carried out in order to prevent... the disease from gaining a start." Around 700 CE, Tuina had developed into a separate study in the Imperial Medical College.
The first reference to this type of external treatment was called "Anwu", then the more common name became "Anmo". It was then popularized and spread to many foreign countries such as Korea and Japan.
As the art of massage continued to develop and gain structure, it merged (around 1600 CE) with another technique called "Tuina", which was the specialty of bone-setting using deep manipulation. It was also around this time that infant "Tuina" became popular, with its own set of rules and methods.
Today, the term "Tuina" has replaced "Anmo" within China and in the West. The term "Anmo" is still used in some surrounding countries such as Japan.
It is not unusual to see practitioners working on street corners and parks in modern China. Tuina is an occupation that is particularly suitable to those with physical disabilities and in China, many blind persons receive training in the art of Tuina, where their heightened sense of touch is a great benefit.
Electro-acupuncture, the application of a pulsating electrical current to acupuncture needles as a means of stimulating the acupoints, was developed in China as an extension of hand manipulation of acupuncture needles around 1934. It is described, though only briefly, in most comprehensive texts of acupuncture (1-4). The procedure for electro-acupuncture is to insert the acupuncture needle as would normally be done, attain the qi reaction by hand manipulation, and then attach an electrode to the needle to provide continued stimulation. The benefits of using electrical stimulation are:
- It substitutes for prolonged hand maneuvering. This helps assure that the patient gets the amount of stimulation needed, because the practitioner may otherwise pause due to fatigue. Electro-acupuncture may also help reduce total treatment time by providing the continued stimulus. During electro-acupuncture, the practitioner can attend to other patients.
- It can produce a stronger stimulation, if desired, without causing tissue damage associated with twirling and lifting and thrusting the needle. Strong stimulation may be needed for difficult cases of neuralgia or paralysis.
- It is easier to control the frequency of the stimulus and the amount of stimulus than with hand manipulation of the needles.
Auricular acupuncture is one of the more widely used Microsystems within eastern medicine. Microsystems use one aspect of the body - for example, the ears, hands or feet - to treat conditions that are present anywhere in the body. Auricular acupuncture may be used as a primary mode of treatment or in conjunction with other treatments such as acupuncture, bodywork or herbal medicine. Examples of other microsystems include reflexology and korean hand acupuncture.