Supplemental Acupuncture Therapies

Chinese Medicine has a rich history of supplemental medical therapies that are often used along with acupuncture to enhance treatment. These therapies have a very long history of safe and effective use in China, as well as in many other parts of the world. Cupping, for example, has played an important role in many traditional medical systems throughout the world. Although these therapies may seem a bit antiquated at first to someone brought up in the high tech world of Conventional Western Medicine, they have proven the test of time and can be a powerful addition to an acupuncture treatment protocol.

Cupping Therapy

Cupping therapy involves the placement of glass or plastic cups on a patient’s body to create localized pressure by a vacuum. The vacuum is created by heat in the case of glass cups, or suction in plastic cups. Cupping is one of the most effective methods of moving qi and blood and breaking up qi and blood stagnation, making it a highly effective therapy for pain relief. From a western perspective, cupping expands the blood vessels of the skin, thereby increasing blood circulation, and facilitates the flow of lymphatic fluid, helping to remove toxins and strengthening immunity. It is very effective for relieving muscle pain and stiffness, but is not limited to treating pain. Cupping can be utilized for conditions as diverse as the common cold, detoxification, breaking up scar tissue, fatigue, bowel irregularities, stress, and poor sexual function, among many others. Most patients find cupping therapy to be a pleasant and relaxing experience, and enjoy the benefits it offers.


Moxibustion is a form of heat therapy, most often involving the burning of the herb mugwort over specific areas or acupuncture points of the body. There are many ways in which moxibustion therapy is performed, but one of the most common ways is using a roll of densely packed mugwort which resembles a cigar. The moxa roll is lit at one end and held near an acupuncture point until the patient starts to feel warmth in the area. This is known as indirect moxibustion.
Moxibustion is used in a wide variety of conditions, but most commonly to treat pathologies involving cold or dampness. Moxibustion is very effective in cases of fatigue, as it can tonify the qi and yang of the body (thereby increasing energy). It can also be helpful for pain since it helps to move stagnation and increase circulation. A novel use of moxa which has become popular in the west is the treatment of the complication in pregnancy known as breech baby, where the fetus is not positioned correctly in the womb. Moxibustion to the last point on the bladder meridian, on the little toe, has been shown to be very effective in the case of a breech baby.

Gua Sha

Gua Sha is a technique in which a round-edged instrument is rubbed against a patient’s skin, resulting in the appearance of small red petechiae know as ‘sha’ which fade after a few days. It helps to resolve blood stagnation and in doing so, promotes normal circulation and metabolic function. Immediate relief can be experienced from conditions as diverse as pain, fever, chills, cough, stiffness, and others. Gua Sha is especially suitable for upper respiratory issues, acute infections, digestive problems, emotional problems, as well as many other acute and chronic conditions. It is not uncommon for very chronic and stubborn pain conditions to clear up quickly with gua sha treatment. More recently there has been compelling western biomedical research which has confirmed the anti-inflammatory, immune-modulating, and antioxidant effects of gua sha treatment.