Acupuncture & Chinese Herbology combine to form the backbone of a complete medical system known as Traditional East Asian Medicine, also known as Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
Acupuncture, the insertion of superfine flexible needles into specific points along the body, can treat acute or chronic ailments, relieve pain, enhance recuperative powers and strengthen the immune system. Depending on the patient’s complaint, visits may be required daily, 2 or 3 times per week, weekly or monthly.
Practitioners in California use sterilized, single-use needles.
In China, extensive research has been carried out on cupping therapy, and the practice is a mainstay of government-sponsored hospitals of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). The fundamental therapeutic value of cupping has been documented through several thousand years of clinical and subjective experience and has advanced its application to many areas.
In my clinic, I use cupping to relieve the stagnation and pain of muscle injury and to speed up recovery time. I use silicone cups that are washed and sterilized after use.
The specific origin of Cupping Therapy remains in obscurity – the consensus is that the action of suction has been part of therapeutic efforts throughout human history. Ancient cultures used hollowed-out animal horns, bones, bamboo, nuts, seashells and gourds to purge bites, pustules, infections and skin lesions from the body. Earthenware and metal were fashioned into cupping vessels before the development of glass.
arliest recorded use of cupping is from the famous Taoist alchemist and herbalist Ge Hong (281–341 A.D.). In ancient Greece, Hippocrates recommended the use of cups for a variety of ailments, while in the early 1900’s eminent British physician, Sir Arthur Keith wrote how he witnessed cupping performed with excellent success.
Gua sha, literally “to scrape away fever” in Chinese, is a healing technique used in Asia by practitioners of Traditional Medicine in both the clinical setting and in homes. You may hear your Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese or Thai friends referring to spooning or coining; what they’re talking about is gua sha. It has also been given the descriptive French name “tribe-effleurage.”
Gua sha involves palpation and cutaneous stimulation where the skin is stroked by a blunt-edged instrument, resulting in the appearance of small red petechiae, called ‘sha,’ which will fade in 2 to 3 days.
Gua sha is valuable in the prevention and treatment of many acute or chronic disorders. Although gua sha can be used for pain, I typically use the technique to expel the “common cold.” After a gua sha session for a cold, you will be sent home and told to stay warm and sleep. Most patients report back that they felt substantially better after their gua sha treatment.
Commonly gua sha implements include a ceramic Chinese soup spoon, a well-worn coin, a simple metal cap with rounded edges, honed animal bones, water buffalo horn, or jade. In cases of fatigue from heavy work, a piece of ginger root soaked in rice wine is sometimes used to rub down the spine from head to tail. In my clinic I use horn gua sha scrapers. Each patient who receives gua sha gets their own unused scraper which I then keep, after cleaning, in their chart.
Gua sha involves placing the scraper against the patient’s skin. For pain, the skin is oiled, and the scraper is applied with firm pressure and then moved down the muscles or along the pathway of the acupuncture meridians. For expelling a cold, the scraper is used with an appropriate external formula, designed to expel pathogens, and the strokes are lighter and faster. In either case, this causes extravasation of blood from the peripheral capillaries and may result in sub-cutaneous blemishing (ecchymosis), which usually takes 2–4 days to fade.
Sha rash does not represent bruising, as is evidenced by the immediate fading of the markings to ecchymosis and the rapid resolution of sha as compared to bruising. The color of sha varies according to the severity of the patient’s blood stasis—which may correlate with the nature, severity and type of their disorder—appearing from a dark blue-black to a light pink, but is most often a shade of red.
The origin of the term gua sha is the Shang Han Lun, a ~220 CE Chinese Medical text on cold-induced disease, one of the basic texts we are taught to this day.
Tui na or tuina (pronounced (tōō·ē nä)) is a hands-on body treatment that uses the practitioner’s hands to diagnose through palpation and treat diseases and illnesses with a variety of manual techniques.
Tui na is an integral part of TCM and is taught in TCM schools as part of formal training in Oriental medicine.
The practitioner may brush, knead, roll/press, and rub the areas between each of the joints, known as the eight gates, to attempt to open the body’s defensive (wei) qi and get the energy moving in the meridians and the muscles. The practitioner may also use range of motion, traction, and massage, with the stimulation of acupressure points. These techniques aid in the treatment of both acute and chronic musculoskeletal conditions.
Tui-Na’s Chinese origins lie some two thousand years ago with the advent of the canonical texts Huang Di Nei Jing (a classical text we still study in California) and Huang Di Qi Bo Anmo Jing. At that time in Chinese history, manual therapy was known as “an-mo” [an – to press, mo – to grind]. The Huang Di Nei Jing made reference to some dozen or so manual therapy techniques as an effective treatment method for problems such as arthralgia (bi) syndromes, flaccidity (wei) syndromes, deviation of the eye and mouth, and stomachache.
During the Han Dynasty, the famed physician Zhang Zhongjing expounded on the idea of massaging patients with certain medicated ointments in his legendary text, Jin Kui Yao Lue (Prescriptions from the Golden Cabinet). This type of manual therapy was called “gao mo.”