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What is this “cupping” that’s all the rage as of late? (an introduction to cupping and Gua Sha)

Those strange round marks on the backs of celebrities, athletes, and Olympians like Michael Phelps, almost as if they were in an epic battle with an octopus. Though it is utilized by massage therapists, Chiropractors and other bodyworkers; Cupping is an ancient Chinese therapy that is just making itself known in the west as of recent.

So what is cupping all about?

Cupping is the placement of special “cups” on the skin, usually over broad areas such as the back in order to bring qi and blood to the surface so that the body can more easily eliminate toxins, find relief from pain (especially muscle soreness), and promote wellbeing and healing.      

Cupping is traditionally performed with tempered glass cups in which the suction is created by passing an open flame through the cup and then quickly placing it (or usually several) on the affected area, utilizing the lack of oxygen and thus suction created by the flame to stay in place and have its potent effect. Patients often refer to the experience as being both soothing and invigorating.

Different size silicone or other material-type cups can be used as well but generally have less suction then “fire cupping” but can be very effective for “facial rejuvenation treatments” due to cuppings excellent ability to move the blood - meaning tighten pores, reduce wrinkles and cause skin to have more elasticity.

Is cupping for everyone?

Cupping was traditionally used to treat acute illness much more then our current day focus of athletic performance or aesthetics. Cupping’s ability to move the qi and blood (ie. circulation) indicates that it is able to assist the body in clearing acute illnesses - often referred to as wind-cold or wind-heat invasions. I can personally testify to it's effectiveness in relieving a cough and clearing the residual mucus that can accompany.

Though cupping can even be used on small children (only by a licensed professional!) without side effect, those who are deficient in qi or blood (frail and elderly folk, chronically sick and depleted individuals, chemo patients, etc.) should generally avoid intense sessions or its use at all; your Acupuncturist will be qualified to make that decision.

What about Gua Sha?

Though similar to cupping in its effect, the method is quite different. Gua Sha works by using a tool - often copper or jade, but even a porcelain soup spoon will work. This tool is then scraped along the skin with a certain technique. Though it does not have to be painful (and often feels very good!) applying the correct pressure and techniqe takes training and practice. This method also works by bringing blood and qi to the surface of the skin in order to increase circulation, relieve aches and pains and purge illness.

What can I expect from Cupping and Gua Sha?

Relative to your specific health needs, you can expect to feel much better, even after just one session! One of my favorite things about these methods is that the effects are often immediately noticeable. Whether that is a reduction in coughing or phlegm, reduced aches and soreness, or a feeling of being re-energized; Cupping and Gua Sha are quite recognizable for their abilities. Also, even though the after effects can look intimidating for several days, the experience itself is not uncomfortable (many would say it feels quite pleasant!).

Sounds great, how do I do it?

Contact me for an appointment or to have your questions answered. Though cupping and Gua Sha can be used by alone, optimal results are achieved by combining them with a proper medical diagnosis and likely acupuncture or another modality to bring balance and wellbeing to the body.

Sleep - A Key Component of Mental Health and Overall Wellbeing

Sleep is one of the most important things we do when considering the overall health of our mind and body. Though we all know that good sleep recharges our "batteries", keeps are immune system strong, and helps us to feel our best each and every day, rarely do we talk about how to sleep. My experience as a practitioner has shown that each of us needs a particular amount and type of sleep, and when we adhere to this sleep pattern we function much more efficiently and happily each day.

Here we are in late spring with the days getting longer, and the glorious sunshine keeping us active more and more each day. I have some insights share with you that may help you continue to get the sleep you need, or perhaps make good solid sleep a more attainable practice.

(Please remember this may take patience, time and support from those around you!)

  • Timing:

Establish a regular sleep schedule that involves sleeping and waking at the most consistent times possible. This is especially hard for the "weekend warrior" but your health is worth it!

  • Environment:

Modify your sleeping space to be as conducive to sleep as possible. This may mean darkening curtains, earplugs, white noise, comfortable temperature/humidity, and fancy pajamas (or not!). And in the morning, make waking as natural as possible: natural light, gentle movement and stretching, and anything else that helps you get out of bed in a peaceful manner. Also, consider a HEPA air filter, and investing in some quality bedding (and bed!) to catalyze the whole process

  • Bedtime Ritual

For most of us, falling asleep is the hardest part. Though Oriental medicine does address several different pathologies that may deprive us of sound sleep (whether falling, staying or waking), there are some easy things you can do to help set your mind and body in the right place. 

  A: Make your bed a place primarily about sleeping; avoid doing work, reading, watching tv and especially smart phone screens. 

  B: Clear your mind before bedtime: this means winding down before you get in the sheets, and making whatever kind of plan (or no plan!) for the next day that helps your mind be at ease. Music, candles, what helps you relax.

  C: Engage in gentle movement to help the body wind down. Yin-style yoga, gentle stretching, or breathing exercises like Qigong.

  • Diet:

Do not eat less that 2 hours before bed! This causes the body to keep processing and "working" when it naturally wants to wind can also lead to disturbed sleep and dreams.

Caffeine is generally something to be avoided of course. If you do imbibe, consider only the morning time as coffee-time. If you're a tea-drinker, white and herbal teas are a great alternative.

Alcohol before bed may seem to calm the mind, but it only adds difficulty to the body's detoxification processes, which happen largely at night!


I hope these guidelines help bring you peace and rest during the yin (night) time hours. Consider also that sleep issues affect more than 1/3 of Americans. If you would like help with any part of this process I am happy to discuss with you how Oriental medicine can assist your sleep quality to make it as restful, peaceful, and enjoyable as possible.