Questions and Answers on Cupping & Moxabustion

Q: What is cupping?
A: Cupping therapy has been recorded in China’s ancient records dating back some 3,500 years ago and it is still being used today by many alternative medicine practitioners. Integration of technologies and materials continues to increase the range of treatment using cupping for many different ailments. Besides the Chinese, both the Native Americans and the Greeks also had their own versions of cupping.

Today, cupping therapy involves the use of small glass or plastic cups to form suction on the skin. For example, it can also be used to draw out a little stagnated blood which helps with muscle pain and tendon sprain. Cupping therapy is a tremendously helpful technique for pain cases as well as many other conditions. In my experience, when combined with acupuncture and massage, the use of cupping will often cut down the number of treatments required for alleviation of pain by 30%-60%.

Q: How cupping is performed?
A: The basic concept behind cupping is suction. There are two methods by which suction can be achieved:

The traditional method is administered by taking a glass cup or jar containing a cotton ball swabbed with alcohol. The cotton ball is then ignited and removed after air has been burned out of the cup. After which the cup is then placed on a specific location of the patient's body. The suction created will mark the patient's skin rises up inside the cup and blood rushes to the area. This method is known as "Fire Cupping". Practitioners believe it to be the more effective method.

Other practitioners prefer to use the manual suction cup method. In place of the flame, air is pumped from the cup manually after the cup is placed on the skin of the patient.

By pulling the superficial layers of skin and muscle upward, the flow of energy, blood and lymph are greatly increased which in turn releases toxicity and pain. The increased blood flow also speeds up healing to the area and often alleviates the underlying health issues.

Once cupping starts on the skin, the cups may remain stationary for 5 to 15 minutes, or may be slid across the skin with the aid of an oil lubricant or lotion. The general idea is that the stagnation of body fluids in the muscles and body tissues will lead to pain and other illnesses. Cupping improves the circulation and therefore will alleviate those problems.

For treatment of sprain, the affected area needs to be first punctured with sterile lancets before applying the cups. This procedure draws out a small amount of blood along with other harmful pathogens and toxins. The patient will feel dramatic pain and swelling reduction afterwards.

Q: How cupping works in TCM?
A: Cupping therapy works by reducing the pain we feel in our bodies. In TCM, pain is believed to be caused by problems relating to Qi flow. Where there is pain, there is blockage of Qi flow, when Qi is free-flowing, there will be no pain. Blockages can be related to stress in the body, imbalances of hormones and fluids, lack of blood flow, and elevated temperature in the muscles and joints. When cupping is placed on a problem area, the vacuum pull of the cup creates warmth and increases circulation that helps to move Qi. Very soon, as Qi flow resumes, you will feel that the pain is reduced.

Q: What ailments can cupping alleviate?
A: The use of cupping therapy has many benefits and can alleviate many different ailments.

• Constipation, IBS, diarrhea
• Headaches
• Back Pain
• Arthritis
• Fatigue
• Sciatica
• Skin Problems
• Period cramps
• Weight problems And more,

For most people, cupping feels like a deep massage that releases tension.

Q:Does cupping hurt?
A: People who have never had it done think that cupping is painful because they often see bruises on the body after people receive treatment. However, patients normally report that the sensation during treatment simply feels as if someone is tugging on their skin. There are no reports of pain during or after treatment.

Cupping can leave discoloration on the skin. These marks can be red or purple and look like a bad bruise. However, unlike a bruise, there is no pain when moved or touched, and it fades within days. Doctors of TCM recognize this discoloration as a sign that there was blood stagnation (poor circulation) in the area, and that the cupping has cleared all or part of it. In subsequent cupping sessions, there will be significantly less discoloration, and eventually, none at all, signaling that all of the blood stagnation in the area has been resolved.

Q:What is moxabustion?
A: Moxabustion is a treatment by burning the Chinese herb, called moxa (also known as Mugwort or Artemisia). The warm feeling while burning this herb is used to invigorate the flow of Qi (energy), enhance health, and relieve pain. The herb, or moxa, can take by different forms, including cigar-like moxa rolls, raw rice grain-sized pieces, compressed smokeless sticks, or cones. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Mugwort is considered to be warm, acrid, and bitter while used in herbal prescriptions. When burnt, it has similar properties and, thus, its warming nature is useful to help expel cold and damp from the body as well as warming the body’s channels. The bitter and acrid aspects of Mugwort help to break stagnation, clear phlegm, and adjust the Qi and blood. Moxibustion can be considered a supplement therapy for acupuncture to stimulate Qi (energy) at selected points for individual specific functions.

Q: How is moxibustion performed?
A: The raw moxa can be burnt as rice grain-sized pieces directly on acupuncture points to stimulate the functions of the rach point. It can also be burnt on top of the point with a moxa roll form to warm the point and meridian indirectly. Moxa normally is placed in a moxa box to warm an area such as the lower abdomen or back. It can also be rubbed along the meridian in a Lion or Tiger Warmer or placed at the end of an inserted acupuncture needle to enhance the stimulation on an acupuncture point. The most common form of a “moxa roll” has the shape of a cigar. It is lit and shouldered then placed above the skin to warm the appropriate acu-points and/or pain areas. It does not touch or burn the skin, it simply feels like radiating warmth

Q: What moxibustion can treat?
A: Moxibustion therapy in conjunction with acupuncture can be very effective for many diseases and conditions such as neck pain, back pain, muscle stiffness, frozen shoulders, headaches, migraines, tendonitis, arthritis, anxiety, digestive disorders such as diarrhea or food stagnation, IBS, poor concentration or memory, sexual dysfunction, poor concentration or memory, colds and flu, sexual dysfunction and female health problems such as menstrual cramps, irregular periods, and infertility.

Q: Does moxabustion hurt?
A: Moxibustion is specifically used for patients with cold or stagnant conditions. Therefore, if any patient has too much heat, they should not undergo moxibustion treatment. An expert practitioner can advise patients in these matters. Because moxibustion often includes the burning of smoking Mugwort sticks, patients who have respiratory problems should avoid the use of smoking moxa sticks. Smokeless moxa sticks are available, and patients who have respiratory difficulties may opt for this method.