Acupuncture | Other external techniques used

There are a multitude of modalities, which utilises the network of the acupuncture and sinew channels of Chinese medicine. Each has its place and tradition in the canon of Chinese medicine. Personally I use three: Fire cupping, Gua Sha, and Moxibustion.


Fire Cupping

Fire Cupping is an ancient form of medicine in which a local suction is created on the skin; practitioners believe this mobilizes blood flow in order to promote healing.[ The cupping procedure commonly involves creating a small area of low air pressure next to the skin.

Fire cupping is a treatment where a cotton ball dipped in 50% or greater alcohol is lit and the cotton ball is then introduced inside of the cup for a brief second. The cup is then placed on the patient. As a small vacuum has been created by the combustion of the oxygen inside the cup, the skin is drawn up into the cup creating a seal. If oil has been applied, the cups can be moved around the patient's body.

Application in clinic:

Used nearly exclusively on the back, the static muscle groups of the neck, shoulders, paraspinal muscles. The technique promotes blood circulation and resolves tonicity in the muscles. It is a technique I often used because the suction pulls the beds of the static muscles of the back apart. This is particularly useful on the back as muscles often slide across one another.  Age inevitably makes the lubrication of the action less efficient and this is the only treatment I know of which lifts embedded muscles.


Gua Sha

Gua sha (Chinese: 刮痧;  guā shā), literally "to scrape away fever" in Chinese (more loosely, "to scrape away disease by allowing the disease to escape as sandy-looking objects through the skin"), is a form of folk medicine.

Gua sha involves repeated pressured strokes over lubricated skin with a smooth edge. The smooth edge is placed against the pre-oiled skin surface, pressed down firmly, and then moved down the muscles—

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 capillary rupture (petechiae) as in bruising, as is evidenced by the immediate fading of the markings to echymosis, 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 appearance can look rather severe, initially. But the lightness and release in the muscles makes it a treatment which clients regard highly.

Application in clinic:

Used nearly exclusively on the back, the static muscle groups of the neck, shoulders, paraspinal muscles. The technique promotes blood circulation and resolves tonicity in the muscles. Therefore it is often used alleviate headaches and migraines, particularly as a pre-treatment.  It is a technique I often teach – so that it can be used as necessary.




Moxibustion (Chinese: 灸術 jiǔshù) is a traditional Chinese medicine therapy using moxa, or mugwort herb, which is burnt in a number of different ways.

Practitioners use moxa to warm regions and acupuncture points with the intention of stimulating circulation through the points and inducing a smoother flow of blood and qi  It is believed by some, that mugwort itself acts as an emmenagogue, meaning that it stimulates blood-flow. It is claimed that moxibustion militates against cold and dampness in the body, and can serve to turn breech babies (when used on a specific point at a specific time in pregnancy).

Moxibustion is considered to be especially effective in the treatment of chronic problems,  deficient conditions (weakness), and gerontology (old age). Bian Que (fl. circa 500 BCE), one of the most famous semi-legendary doctors of Chinese antiquity and the first specialist in moxibustion, discussed the benefits of moxa over acupuncture in his classic work. He asserted that moxa could add new energy to the body and could treat both excess and deficient conditions.

Practitioners may use acupuncture needles made of various materials in combination with moxa, depending on the direction of supposed qi flow they wish to stimulate. There are several methods of moxibustion. Three of them are direct scarring, direct non-scarring, and indirect moxibustion.

Direct scarring moxibustion places a small cone of mugwort on the skin at an acupuncture point and burns it until the skin blisters, which then scars after it heals.  Direct non-scarring moxibustion removes the burning mugwort before the skin burns enough to scar, unless the burning mugwort is left on the skin too long.  Indirect moxibustion holds a cigar made of mugwort near the acupuncture point to heat the skin, or holds it on an acupuncture needle inserted in the skin to heat the needle.

Application in clinic:

I use it everywhere, I think it is very useful tool. I do not practise direct scarring moxibustion.