In response to popular demand, I recently added cupping and gua sha only appointments to my list of services! As of now it is a half hour appointment for $40 at my treatment space on Friday or Saturday mornings.
But what does this mean? In general terms, cupping and gua sha are great for musculoskeletal issues such as sore muscles, tightness from over or under-use, and recover from injury. Both techniques physically break up stagnation and allow freer movement. For issues that go beyond the muscle layer, such as phlegm in the chest or an incipient cold or flu, these modalities can open the surface and allow the body to better return itself to health. If you’d like to learn more about each technique, keep reading!
In Chinese, gua sha translates literally to “sand scraping”. This name more or less describes the action of gua sha. It is a technique practiced in many traditional cultures. The form I have learned from my studies in school uses a curved object which may be a tool designed specifically for gua sha, or may be a spoon, a small metal lid, or any other object that has the curve the practitioner wants. A lubricant such as lotion or oil is spread over the skin that is to be scraped to protect the surface of the skin from abrasion, and the curved implement is then scraped over the skin with some degree of pressure. The desired effect is usually some skin coloration, whether it be pale pink, red, or even darker purple tones. It looks like a bruise, but should clear up quicker.
Gua sha is commonly used to treat muscular soreness or tension. The discoloration of the skin means that stagnant blood is being broken up. Therefore it’s important to drink plenty of fluids after a treatment involving gua sha (just as with a treatment involving massage or cupping). Gua sha can also be used to prevent or treat a cold: if you get that stiff neck that means you’re about to get sick, see your acupuncturist and they may gua sha the back of your neck to release the pathogen and relieve the discomfort.
Cupping is an ancient form of bodywork practiced in many cultures. In China, cups were once made of bamboo, and suction was created by heating the insides of the cups and pressing them to the skin. These days, most cups used are clear glass. Suction may be created by using a pump or heating the cup with a flame, and blood and qi is moved to help reduce muscle tightness and alleviate pain. Cupping may be quick and fast or cups can be left on the body longer. They can remain in one place or be slid back and forth.
Marks left by cupping may resemble bruising, but should disappear faster than a bruise, and should not cause pain. Your results will be unique—you may leave your treatment with round marks that vary in color from pale red to dark purple. The color and intensity of the marks indicate to your practitioner how long you have had the condition being treated, and other information such as your relative excess or deficient status.
Cupping should not be administered if you plan to wear clothing such as a backless dress that will expose the marks soon after your treatment, due to their sometimes unsightly nature. Family or friends might ask you about your marks—let them know they are part of a treatment that helped relieve pain, create relaxation, and improved mobility.
After your treatment, you should drink plenty of water. Just like with gua sha, avoid exposing the treated area to cold air or water at least until the end of the day.