I thought I would write some about cupping and gua sha, because until you have it most people don't know what it is. I usually use cupping for pain issues and I usually use gua sha for issues in which there is a great deal of inflammation. So cupping is just an actual suction cup applied to the skin and either left there or moved. I tend to move the cup more than just leave it there but from what I gather most other acupuncturists leave the cup in place. I prefer to move the cup, which is similar to a massage (except the motion of the skin and muscle is up instead of down). I feel I get better results from moving cupping. However if there is a specific point on the muscle you want to address, leaving the cup in place and on tighter is the way to go. Cupping is something I do every day at work, usually several times, so I get a lot of practice at it. Cupping should not hurt, at least not very much. If cupping hurts a lot than the cup is too tight. It doesn't have to hurt to be effective. Cupping is excellent for pain, anywhere really that a cup can be applied. OK, this is not so exciting a discussion, so I will wrap it up by saying that acupuncture and cupping together is a great 1-2 punch for treating pain. I use gua sha less but in the right situation that is what is needed instead of cupping. So any highly inflamed tissue will probably benefit from gua sha. Gua sha is simply scraping the skin. Traditionally the scraping is done with the side of a bone, but nowadays we usually do it with the side of a gua sha tool, which is usually made of stone. The surface is dull so it doesn't cut at all but gently scrapes at the skin until it turns red and releases heat (inflammation) through small red marks called sha marks. This (as well as cupping) is most likely just as old as acupuncture, so at least 4000 years. So I always say that these ancient methods, if they didn't work would most likely have been tossed out - I don't know - maybe 3500 years ago.
Monte Jackson, owner Acupuncture Center of Richmond