Moxibustion

Moxibustion is a traditional Chinese medicine technique that involves the burning of mugwort, a small, spongy herb, to facilitate healing. Moxibustion has been used throughout Asia for thousands of years; in fact, the actual Chinese character for acupuncture, means “acupuncture-moxibustion.” The purpose of moxibustion, as with most forms of traditional Chinese medicine, is to strengthen the blood, stimulate the flow of qi, and maintain general health.

How does moxibustion work? Does it hurt?

There are two types of moxibustion: direct and indirect. In direct moxibustion, a small, cone-shaped amount of moxa is placed on top of an acupuncture point and burned. The moxa is placed on the point and lit, but is extinguished or removed before it burns the skin. The patient will experience a pleasant heating sensation that penetrates deep into the skin, but should not experience any pain, blistering or scarring unless the moxa is left in place for too long.

Indirect moxibustion is currently the more popular form of care because there is a much lower risk of pain or burning. In indirect moxibustion, a practitioner lights one end of a moxa stick, roughly the shape and size of a cigar, and holds it close to the area being treated for several minutes until the area turns red. Another form of indirect moxibustion uses both acupuncture needles and moxa. A needle is inserted into an acupoint and retained. The tip of the needle is thenwrapped in moxa and ignited, generating heat to the point and the surrounding area. After the desired effect is achieved, the moxa is extinguished and the needle(s) removed.

What is moxibustion used for?

In traditional Chinese medicine, moxibustion is used on people who have a cold or stagnant condition. The burning of moxa is believed to expel cold and warm the meridians, which leads to smoother flow of blood and qi. In Western medicine, there has been a great deal of research on the use of moxibustion to strengthen the immune system. This may be why moxa is often used in TCM to prevent disease and extend life. Moxibustion has also successfully been used to turn breech babies into a normal head-down position prior to childbirth. A landmark study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1998 found that up to 75% of women suffering from breech presentations before childbirth had fetuses that rotated to the normal position after receiving moxibustion at an acupuncture point on the Bladder meridian. Other studies have shown that moxibustion increases the movement of the fetus in pregnant women, and may reduce the symptoms of menstrual cramps when used in conjunction with traditional acupuncture.

Cupping for Pain Relief


As the name suggests, Cupping Therapy uses a combination of negative pressure and massage movements with the use of a suction device. Cupping therapy is a Negative Pressure technique that is used to achieve a wide range of responses, ranging from extreme relaxation to therapeutic.

A cup is positioned at the area to be treated and, depending on the type of cups being used, a vacuum is created within the cup to draw the underlying tissue into the cup. The suction level can range from light to heavy, and the movements performed by the therapist can be either stimulating or sedating, depending on the needs of the client. The produced vacuum creates a suction effect that increases blood circulation to the local area, relaxes muscle tissue and releases a myriad pain causing factors.

Cupping Therapy softens tight muscles, tones attachments, loosens adhesions and lifts connective tissue by creating suction and negative pressure. This same suction also brings hydration and blood flow to body tissues, and drains excess fluids and toxins by opening lymphatic pathways (a vital part of the immune system). Cupping therapy is very versatile and can be modified to achieve a variety of techniques ranging from subtle lymphatic drainage to deep tissue release.

Why Does Cupping Leave Marks?

Cupping Therapy Massage Seattle

A common misinterpretation of cupping concerns the discoloration that can occur during treatment. Often when pathologic factors and stagnant fluids (toxins, blood and lymph) are dredged up during treatment, discoloration will appear on the skin. This is the therapeutically desired effect – the more this is visible, the greater the level of stagnation and toxicity that has been removed. “Bruising” is caused by impact trauma with breakage of capillaries and reactionary rush of fluids to the damaged area from the tissue compression/injury, and there is no compression in properly employed suction cup therapy, so bruising should not occur. Although it is quite common during stationary Cupping (left static for 5 – 20 minutes) to achieve dramatic marks or discolorations, less aggressive action while moving the cups can minimize the intensity and duration of these marks, and any discoloration should fade over a few days.

As treatments accumulate and the cause of stagnation and buildup has been drained (usually by the 3rd or 4th treatment) no discoloration is likely to occur at all, even though each time the cupping may have been focused on the same area for the same duration and with the same amount of negative pressure. This is the result of having internal unwanted toxins systematically purged. This is helpful in taking pressure off of joints and organs in the body by pulling this fluid and “creating space” for the tissue.

Cupping Marks & Post Treatment Care

When circulation is sluggish or compromised in an injured or diseased area of the body, the cells receive insufficient oxygen, and there can be a local build up of waste products. The deposits dissipate from a few hours up to several weeks, depending on the amount of stagnation and the patient’s post treatment activities.

Usually, the practitioner will see the greatest amount of deposits being drawn to the surface in the first few treatments – this is a good thing.  The deposits will lessen in intensity as the deeper issues are resolved and the stagnations and toxins have been dredged up and flushed out via the body’s own circulatory systems and expulsion from the pores. Sweating is a great after treatment follow up to help get rid of the garbage you’ve released.  Although the marks look painful, they are not. Patients usually feel an immediate sense of relief.

For four to six hours following a treatment you should avoid any strenuous activity, cold weather and unpleasantly hot environments. Cupping opens the pores and because of this the absorption of liniments, analgesics, plant hydrosols or essential oils will be aided. Drinking more water than is typically necessary following treatment is helpful for oxygenating cleansed tissues.

Gua Sha

Gua Sha is a healing technique used throughout Asia. Gua means to rub or friction. Sha is the term used to describe congestion of blood at the surface of the body. When friction is applied in repeated even strokes, the sha surfaces as small red petechiae. In minutes the petechiae fade into echymotic patches. The sha disappears totally in two to four days. The color and rate of fading are both diagnostic and prognostic indicators.

The benefits of Gua Sha are numerous. It moves stuck blood, promoting normal circulation to the muscles, tissues, and organs directly beneath the surface treated. The patient experiences immediate changes in stiffness, pain and mobility. Normal metabolic processes are restored by the movement of fluids as nutrients are carried to the tissues and metabolic wastes are carried away. Because Gua Sha mimics sweating, it resolves fever.

Gua Sha cools the patient who is overheated, warms the patient who is chilled, nourishes the patient who is deficient, and clears the patient who is excess. Gua Sha is therefore considered an adaptogenic technique.

A care provider considers Gua Sha in any case of pain or discomfort, for upper respiratory or digestive problems, and for any condition where palpation indicates there is sha.

After Gua Sha, the patient is instructed to cover the area, avoiding wind and exposure to the sun or sudden change in temperature. Stretching is recommended but not a heavy workout on the day of treatment.

Gua Sha is a common treatment for upper back and neck tension and pain. Below is an example of the petechiae or ‘Sha’ that surfaces during the treatment. As the muscles and tissue heal, repeated treatments will show less ‘Sha’ until eventually none arises. This usually happens with 3-4 treatments and is a sign that the area has completely healed.