Acupuncturists use a full range of Chinese medicine techniques when treating patients. Cupping and gua sha are two such additional techniques. These techniques are most often used for patients with pain, often of the neck, shoulders, and back, as well as for patients with herniated disks, disk degeneration, and arthritis and for those with asthma, colds, flu, or even insomnia.
Cupping is like receiving a very deep, focused massage in that it improves circulation. The acupuncturist will place either a glass or plastic cup on the skin. The cup will stick to the skin from suction that is generated with either heat or a handheld pump. The cup will not hurt, but a small amount of suction will be felt. The cup will stay in one place on the skin for a few minutes, or the practitioner may move or slide the cup around.
Often, the cups will leave a mark on the skin that is not painful but is evidence of the effectiveness of the procedure. Cupping, when used in conjunction with acupuncture and massage, may accelerate the rate of healing (resulting in fewer treatments) and often provides immediate relief when there is pain.
Like cupping, gua sha improves circulation. For the procedure, the acupuncturist will use a smooth blunt tool to gently, but firmly, scrape the skin to release underlying stagnation that is causing pain. Gua sha is most commonly used for neck, back, and shoulder pain. Like cupping, gua sha will leave a mark on the skin, evidence of the effectiveness of the procedure.