Acupuncture For Digestive Health in Asheville, NC

What is cupping?  

Cupping is an ancient practice in Chinese medicine and involves the use of glass vessels of various sizes and a flame. An alcohol soaked cotton ball is lit then quickly inserted and removed from the cup by a trained practitioner and then the cup is placed onto fleshy areas of the body, usually the back. The heat in the cup creates a vacuum as it cools and suctions the skin and muscles into the cup part way like a reverse massage.  The cups can be left in place for 5-10 minutes or an oil can be used on the skin first and the cups then glide over the areas to be treated.  The effect is relaxing as it brings stagnant blood and old cellular debris from deep down up to the surface.  In doing so it increases blood flow to the area and breaks up adhesions in the fascia. This helps to relax muscles, relieve pain and increase range of motion.  It is also used to end a cold or flu quickly.  Many gold winning Olympians use it to get the most out of their performance and help in recovery.

Can anyone receive treatment?

Although a non-invasive form of treatment, Chinese cupping is not recommended for pregnant or menstruating women. Patients that have bone fractures or muscle spasms also cannot be given treatments. Further, in cases of patients that have a form of cancer that is spreading from one part of the body to the other, cupping is not advised. If the patient suffers from a condition of which he/she bleeds easily or if he/she has high fever with convulsions, the therapist may refrain from providing treatment. There are certain areas of the body where cupping must not be used such as an artery, ulcer, pulse points or any part where there is evidence of deep vein thrombosis. Since cupping treatments are usually performed on the soft tissues such as the fleshy parts of the body, therapists might not provide treatment to very thin patients. It is also not viable for very obese patients.

Are there any side-effects?

Patients usually do not experience any serious side-effects. There will be some minor bruising or discoloration where the cups have been which is to be expected. These effects are generally not painful and disappear in a few days to a week and leave no lasting impressions.   If you are going to be wearing something revealing and do not want others to see the marks do not get it done.


What is gua sha? (pronounced gwah shah)

excerpted from an online article in called, “Scrape Away The Pain- Gua Sha” by Traver H. Boehm

“I am typing today while sore as heck with a nose that’s running like a faucet. Today is no fun. Fortunately, I have a lovely live-in acupuncturist who is going to make me feel much better using a little known, but extremely effective tool – gua sha.

Gua translates directly from Chinese as, “to scrape.”  While sha translates as, “sand”  for the sandy like appearance of redness that appears after the scraping with a specific gua sha tool, usually a plastic spoon or a round metal lid or cap.  Traditional Chinese Medicine has long believed illnesses such as colds get trapped on the exterior of our bodies where they meet the “troops” of our immune system.This confrontation is why we suffer effects on the exterior of our bodies - when we get colds, we feel them as aches in our necks, headaches, runny noses, and the like. This is in contradiction to an “interior” illness such as liver cancer, that is not going to present itself with watery eyes, sneezing and coughing.

Traditional Chinese Medicine also believes muscle soreness and injuries are in essence traffic jams of blood and Qi. “Qi” literally has entire volumes written about it in the form of explanations, but for our purposes, we’ll just call it - energy.  Put simply, when you wake up and feel great, you have a lot of Qi.  When you wake up and feel like you can’t get out of bed, you don’t have a lot of Qi. 

Whether you believe in Qi or not, we’ve all found relief from rubbing an injury or sore muscle – which is clearly promoting an increase in blood flow, thus lessening the pain.

Performing gua sha involves taking a gua sha tool and repeatedly rubbing or scraping the tool on the skin over the sore area. Often oil is applied to the skin first.  In my case, due to my cold, the treatment will be given over my upper back, neck and shoulders. This will also help lessen the soreness I have in those areas as well.

"Sha" is best defined as the red splotches or petechia that appear on the skin from rubbing the spoon or tool repeatedly over the affected area. Blood flow is decreased anytime we have a spasm or injury. Both lactic and uric acid can get trapped underneath the skin or within a bound up muscle due to the lack of drainage caused by the decreased blood flow. One theory is that this metabolic waste turns crystalline and breaking these crystals with the spoon or gua sha tool can lead to microscopic trauma to blood vessels. Signs of these metabolic waste products being released into the tissue become evident in the form of sha. This sha is a positive sign for an initial treatment as it lets you know changes are happening in the underlying muscle tissue and fascia.

After an acute illness or injury the amount of redness, or sha, will be heavy post treatment.  It may even appear there is bruising to the area. This bruising and redness will decrease over time. Usually within a week. Repeated treatments will illicit less and less of the sha with each session. This gives us insight into the fact that something is being released and then cleared out from the area and is seen as another positive sign. The lessening of the sha should also be accompanied by a significant decrease in symptoms.”

The benefits of gua sha include a​ marked decrease in pain.  There is also greater range of motion in sore muscles, and it helps to clear out a cold or flu much quicker, giving relief to symptoms of soreness and achiness.