Cupping and gua sha are essentially massage procedures involving tools. They are traditional methods of treatment in Chinese Medicine for such conditions as:
- Chronic or acute colds, flu, respiratory ailments, asthma, chronic cough, and other Lung-related conditions
- Tight, painful shoulder and back muscles
- Abdominal pain
- Bedwetting in children
- A variety of other conditions
Cupping involves the application of cups to the surface of the skin. The cups, made of glass, plastic, bamboo, or pottery, have smooth rims and diameters ranging from about one to three inches. A small amount of oil or liniment is applied to the areas to be cupped in order to protect the person’s skin. The cup is then applied with suction by briefly inserting a flame into the cup, then removing the flame quickly and immediately putting the cup onto the person’s body. The cup is not hot when it is applied; the flame is used only for the purposes of creating suction inside the cup. Cupping is usually applied to the person’s back, but may be applied to other areas depending on the condition. The treatment usually lasts five to ten minutes.
If a cup is left in one place, it often leaves a perfectly round reddish-purple mark. If the practitioner slides the cup around, it will often leave a broad band with ill-defined borders. Although these marks resemble bruises, they are generally not painful and the cupping process is not painful. The marks may last up to seven to ten days after a treatment. The amount of redness or purple color that arises varies from person to person according to their individual condition and the amount of time the cups are employed.
Gua sha, also known as coining, can be performed with a variety of tools, all of which achieve similar results. These tools are smooth, round-edged, firm instruments similar to Chinese porcelain spoons. The practitioner applies oil or liniment to the area to be treated, then uses the tool to massage the patient. The skin is not broken; the tool slides along the surface of the skin. It may leave marks similar to those left by cupping.
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