Manual Therapies

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What is cupping?

Cupping involves the application of suction cups to areas of the body. The amount of suction varies depending on the patient's needs and preferences. Cups may be placed and left untouched or may be manipulated once they are placed.


Healing time decreases with cupping due to its creation of a small, controlled amount of inflammation. The "artificial crisis" created by the inflamed tissue releases chemical mediators that cause the body to route resources (blood, glucose) to the area, allowing it to heal faster than it would if the area remained untouched. Cupping also acts to release fascia, the connective tissue that surrounds muscles. Fascia can contract independently of muscle fibers, and cupping often allows persistent muscle tension to be released due to its fascia releasing capability.


Cupping may also be used as a diagnostic tool during traditional Chinese acupuncture sessions. The color that presents on the skin in response to cupping tells practitioners where qi flow is blocked. If qi flow is severely impeded, cupping can sometimes feel uncomfortable, but most patients find the experience pleasant. Continued cupping sessions can help rectify qi flow and will become more comfortable with time, however, no more than one session per week is recommended.


This therapy often leaves marks on the skin that last for 4-7 days. As qi flow increases, marks decrease in quantity, color, and duration.


Thanks to Amanda Brandeis and KXAN and to Jim Turner and Spectrum News for great segments and articles about cupping! Check out Spectrum's article and video and KXAN's article. Click below for KXAN's video interview.

Cupping interview on KXAN

What is Tuina? How is it different from massage or reiki?

Tuina is a form of manual therapy that aims to rectify qi flow throughout the body. It works on the body's meridian systems and uses acupressure in addition to other manual techniques to move qi and relieve blockages.


Massage therapy, by contrast, employs a biomedical model that aims to release tight muscles and restore visceral function via manual manipulation. Tuina often relieves tight muscles as a side benefit, but its primary goal is to restore energetic balance.

Like tuina, reiki focuses on moving energy throughout the body. However, reiki practitioners do not touch patients, whereas tuina involves therapeutic touch.

What is gua sha therapy?

The term "gua sha" translates to "scraping bruises". The therapy involves placing oil onto the skin and using a blunt edged object, such as a spoon, coin, or specialized tool to scrape along body lines. Similar to cupping, gua sha releases fascia and acts to create a small, controlled amount of inflammation which speeds healing time by routing blood and nutrients to the area.


The controlled amount of inflammation produced by gua sha stimulates the immune system throughout the body when it is applied over a wide area. Therefore, it is often applied during the course of infectious diseases to speed recovery.


Gua sha can also be used as a diagnostic tool for practitioners, as the marks it generates pinpoint areas of qi blockage. Unlike cupping, gua sha does not penetrate deeply into tissue, allowing it to be better suited for smaller areas and superficial injuries.


Gua sha often leaves marks on the body that last for 1-4 days. As qi flow increases, the marks decrease in quantity, color, and duration.