Many people experience pain and discomfort in their muscles at some point in their lives. For some this is as a result of an injury or excessive injury. For others this is a gradual pain built up over time with no particular reason. Traditional Chinese Medicine will look at all aspects of a persons physical and emotional health to diagnose the issue. Acupuncture is an excellent solution to many musculoskeletal pains and a practitioner may use a combination of points local to the injury along with points to address the underlying issue.
Acupuncture is often used by western physiotherapists to help muscular pains. Usually these points are trigger points on muscles to affect the pain/ tension cycle. A TCM Acupuncturist may include these points in their prescription but will also focus on addressing the health of the individual to accelerate healing and to prevent long term injuries from occurring. In Chinese Medicine, a propensity for injuries that do not heal in the appropriate time frame are due to an imbalance of the organs of the body which can lead to stagnation of qi and blood. It is the stagnation which causes the pain.
Acupuncture points are chosen to help move the qi and blood. A prescription of points are configured to encourage the organs of the body to function correctly and work in harmony with each other.
Chinese Cupping Therapy
Cupping Therapy has been used to heal the body for over 5000 years. Although based on Traditional Chinese Medicine, variations of this treatment were used by ancient Egyptians, North American Indians, early Greeks, and in other Asian and European countries. Cupping therapy was recommended by Hippocrates, the man whom many consider to be the “Father of Modern Medicine,” in his guide to clinical treatment.
The purpose of Cupping Therapy is to enhance circulation, move stagnation (pain) and remove “heat”. It is often used to improve musculo-skeletal issues such as back and shoulder pain and was used extensively by competitors in the London and Rio olympics. It is often used alongside acupuncture which aids the healing process but can be used in isolation.
Cupping involves placing a glass or plastic cup onto the skin and creating a vacuum by suctioning out the air (either by a flame or a vacuum pump). The skin and underlying tissue are sucked into the cup. The intensity of this can be adjusted to suit the patient and the injury. It is not painful but can feel like a tight, pulling sensation. Depending on the patient, the cups will either be left in place for a few minutes or can be glided around with a massaging effect. This is often soothing and relaxing.
The most noticeable effect of the cupping treatment are the round bruise-like marks left on the area. These can last for a few days. In TCM theory, pain is often caused by stagnation of blood and Qi (a form of energy that moves around the body). Where there is injury, physical or emotional stress, the stagnation occurs. The discolouration of the skin is the underlying stagnation being raised to the surface of the body. Cupping over these areas is excellent at moving the stagnation and as such, alleviating the pain. The deeper the colour of the marks indicates a more acute issue. The cupping marks are often used to indicate where the pain is radiating from so it can be dealt with more accurately.
Other benefits of Cupping are:
- stimulation of blood and lymph circulation around the body which aids the healing process
- reduces the symptoms of flu, coughs and colds and prevents the illness penetrating further into the body
- reduces feelings of anxiety and stress
As mentioned, Cupping Therapy has been around for thousands of years. But in 2004 it ‘shot to fame’ when Gwyneth Paltrow was seen on the red carpet sporting several cupping marks on her back. Soon afterwards, other celebrities ‘endorsements’ were seen on the bodies of Jennifer Anniston and Victoria Beckham. However, the wide array of Olympic athletes such as Michael Phelps (swimming), Alex Naddour (gymnastics), LaShawn Merritt (400m) showing cupping marks in the London and Rio Olympics, brought the benefits of the treatment to the forefront.
A typical Cupping Therapy treatment is often combined with acupuncture to achieve the best results. A full medical history is taken and a TCM diagnosis made. The acupuncture needles, followed later by the cups, will be placed in accordance with this. The full treatment will take up to 1 hour. Improvements are often felt immediately with the full result achieved in a few days.