“Where there’s stagnation, there will be pain. Remove the stagnation, and you remove the pain”
This common Chinese medicine adage speaks well to the use of cupping therapy. Cupping can be used for a variety of ailments, but many people in the West enjoy the benefits for aches and pains that have reached deep layers of the body and seem to refuse to leave. The great success of cupping comes from the suction that is created on the skin to provide space for the lymph system to flow more freely and for blood to circulate more abundantly.
Not just for aches and pains, cupping is also effective during cold and flu season and for treatment of airborne allergens. The treatment stimulates and invigorates the immune response to take on foreign invaders with more vigor and to flush out the toxins that build up on the outer layer of our greatest defense, the skin.
Beyond chronic knots and immune building, cupping can sedate the nervous system, assist with the removal of headaches, migraines, anxiety, and some people will even use it to break up and remove cellulite. For all the things it can do, it is important to always have an Oriental medicine practitioner take a full assessment of your health history before choosing this therapy for treatment. Not all conditions stem from a source of stagnation alone and must be properly addressed for each individual.
In my practice, I love providing full cupping sessions using “gliding cupping” or “cupping massage.” During these longer sessions, I will use herbal salves or oils to allow the cups to move up and down the affected and surrounding area we are treating. This allows for greater surface area to be covered and for deeper layers to be addressed as the cups are able to stay on for longer periods of time. Acupuncture and other therapies can also be used during these sessions, but the focus will be on cupping.
Cupping will often leave bruise-like marks that should be relieved within 10-14 days depending on your immune function. It is best to care for yourself as though you are sick for the first 48 hours by not heavily working out, eating heavy meals, drinking alcohol or consuming intoxicants as your tolerance could be quite low and thus create stronger effects while your system is trying to detox. Please do not shower or expose your skin to intense temperatures either hot or cold for at least two hours following treatment.
“Where there is cold, there is death”
Another great Chinese maxim, the acknowledgement of temperature having a significant effect on the body brings in the common usage of moxibustion, known simply as “moxa.” Although not as regularly used in the West, traditionally, acupuncture and moxibustion are used in conjunction to invigorate the blood, dispel disease, and promote general health.
Moxa is the burning of the dried herb mugwort (Artemisia argyi) in order to warm the channels in the body. Working according to the same principles as acupuncture, the heat from moxa is particularly penetrating providing gentle stimulation at acupuncture points and along the energy channels.
Moxa is used in a variety of ways, either directly on the skin or on top of a medium like ginger or salt, on acupuncture needles, or formed into cigar-like sticks allowing the practitioner to move around the body and apply moxa as close or as far away as needed during a treatment.
As many people are at a deficit in their energy reserves, or suffer from what we consider chronic cold conditions, moxa is a wonderful addition to foster your system and is often employed in my treatments. If you smell something unfamiliar upon entry to the treatment space, don’t worry, it’s just moxa!
Medical qigong is yet another ancient technique used either on its own or with other therapies. If you are familiar with Japanese healing system, Reiki, these are sister systems. The word qigong means "qi" - life force or energy and "gong" - practice, play, work, or movement. Qigong is an exchange of energy between ourselves and the world, the ever dynamic flow, expansion and contraction.
In a medical qigong treatment, the practitioner becomes a conduit to increase the exchange, help guide, and release unhealthy qi thereby allowing your system to take in healthy dynamic qi. During a treatment, many people will feel fluttering or movement, often the body becomes warm, a feeling of weightlessness, and potentially thoughts or memories become potent images in the mind similar to a vivid dream.
Medical qigong is based in the same theoretical perspective as acupuncture. All the same issues are addressed with medical qigong and almost every acupuncture treatment I do will utilize this therapy.
If you are sensitive to the prospect of an acupuncture treatment using needles, a medical qigong session may be the right therapy choice for you.
Auricular acupuncture is another wonderful addition to any standard acupuncture treatment or as a stand-alone therapy. This system of acupuncture has been around for centuries, but came into more prominent use from a French acupuncturist in the 1950s. Like reflexology of the hands and feet, it uses a map on the ear as a micro-system for treating illness.
Auricular acupuncture is particularly effective due to the ears innervation of the vagus nerve, the longest nerve of the autonomic nervous system. This nerve plays a key role in the regulation of respiratory, cardiovascular and digestive functions, which ultimately affects all other systems by maintaining healthy nutrition and oxygenation of the blood.
Beyond using this therapy in a single session, it can also be used to provide group healing. The NADA protocol, a five point system of auricular acupuncture, is used to help aid in detoxification and addiction recovery. In recent years, this protocol has also been used by non-profit organizations treating people affected by mass trauma such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and war-torn areas. If there is a community you would like to support with this therapy, please contact me directly to discuss options.
Tuina, pronounced “Twee-nah”, is a Chinese external manipulative therapy using hands-on techniques to bring the body back into balance. This therapy is often employed in musculoskeletal conditions, but is also very effective for internal disorders especial related to digestion and menstruation. This treatment can be either vigorous or gentle in its approach making it useful for a wide-range of patients.
Although I do not currently offer stand-alone sessions of tuina, I do employ it in many of my treatments.
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