Cupping and Myofascial Release

Cupping Therapy

What is Cupping Therapy?

Negative pressure from the suction cups act as a “reverse massage” for myofascial release:

– Rapidly facilitate rigid soft tissue release

– Stretch, loosen & lift connective tissue to release areas of adhesions and constrictions

– Promote fresh oxygenated, nutrient-rich blood and lymph to skin & muscles

– Drain fluid and toxins through the lymphatic system

– Sedate the nervous system to relieve pain

– Relieves inflammation

– Provide deep relaxation be stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system (reducing blood pressure)

Cupping Therapy with Glass Bulbs


What can cupping be used to treat?

  • Bronchitis
  • Asthma
  • Lung congestion
  • Arthritis
  • Rheumatism
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Depression
  • Stress, anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Migraine headaches
  • Back and neck pain
  • Facial paralysis
  • Numbness
  • Cellulite

Recently in the news Team USA Olympians, including Michael Phelps, have been spotted with cupping marks on their back and shoulders.  As you can see, the discoloration of these athlete’s skin is very dark because they are constantly tearing muscle fiber with the physical stress they put on their body.  Cupping will help them heal faster to be able to workout sooner and with less likelihood of injury.  Click here for cupping in the news.


Why are there sometimes marks or discolorations as a result of Cupping Therapy?

The most common misunderstandings concerning cupping are the misinterpretations of the marks that sometimes result. These marks are NOT bruises! Bruising is caused by impact trauma with the breakage of capillaries and a reactionary rush of fluids to the damaged location from the tissue injury.  There is no compression while correctly performed cupping.

When circulation is sluggish or compromised in an injured or diseased area of the body, insufficient oxygen gets to the cells.  This results in a local build-up of waste products such as dead, static blood, lymph, cellular debris, and toxins. It is quite common during stationary cupping (left static for 5 – 15 minutes) to achieve dramatic ‘marks’ or ‘discolorations’, while the less aggressive action of moving the cups, minimizes the intensity and duration of the discolorations.  This is the therapeutically desired effect – the more this is visible, the greater the level of stagnation and toxicity. The discoloration will fade over 3-7 days.  Over multiple treatments, there will be less and less discoloration, indicating the internal unwanted toxins have been systematically purged.


What can I expect after Cupping Therapy?

Aside from a reduction of pain, the after-effects of cupping are most intense at the beginning of receiving treatments and lessen dramatically as your system becomes accustomed to the treatments as they cumulate. Similar to a deep tissue massage, you may feel the need to sleep or you may feel a burst of energy, a warm sensation over the area treated, thirst, increased urination, soreness (like after a strenuous exercise), or even a headache as your lymphatic system drains the purged accumulation. In general, you will be surprised at how relaxed, warm and light you’ll feel – hours… sometimes even days afterward.




Myofascial Release

What is Gua Sha (or Myofascial Release)?

Gua Sha is a myofascial release technique that involves the cutaneous stimulation of the skin in rapid strokes using a round-edged instrument.  We also call this “scraping.”  The purpose of gua sha is to improve local blood circulation and smooth fascia which may be causing of pain.

This results in increased circulation and often, the patient experiences immediate improvement of pain, stiffness, or respiratory issues.  Many physical therapists use a technique called “Graston” which is derived from the ancient Chinese technique of gua sha, except they use metal instruments and use it strictly for helping with the muscles.  As you can see below, there is a wide range of reasons why gua sha is used in Chinese medicine.

How does Gua Sha/Scraping work?

  • Increases surface microperfusion (circulation)
  • Reduces pain and produces a better sense of well-being
  • Reduces inflammatory symptoms in chronic illness (heme oxygenase-1)
    • Cough, asthma, bronchitis, emphysema
    • Mastitis
    • Gastritis
    • Musculoskeletal painful conditions (neck , back)
    • Migraine
    • Postherpetic neuralgia
  • Reduces fever and stimulates immune system (heme oxygenase-1)
  • Reduces symptoms of acute and chronic hepatitis and viral replication

Woman receiving gua sha treatment on neck


Moxibustion Therapy

What is Moxibustion Therapy?

Moxibustion (or Moxa) is a herb also known as Mugwort.  This therapy uses the heat from the burning dried mugwort herb to increase circulation to the local tissues.  There are numerous studies demonstrating that moxa helps reduce chemotherapy side effects, correct breech presentation (gestational), rheumatoid arthritis, and senility.  Moxibustion therapy has also been studied for the treatment of pain, cancer symptoms, stroke, ulcerative colitis, constipation, and hypertension.

In our clinic, we use a strong moxibustion herbal tincture that is applied to the skin where infrared therapy will take place. This is a great way to combine the benefits of both forms of healing.

Infrared lamps are a medical device that promotes faster healing by stimulating microcirculation, which delivers higher levels of oxygen and nutrients to injured cells while eliminating toxins and cellular waste. Acupuncturists use this heat therapy to promote circulation and induce the smoother flow of blood in cases of muscle pain, soft tissue injuries, arthritis, headaches, and more.  For example, research shows a dramatic increase in blood flow to patients with peripheral neuropathy when used twice a week for 20-30 minutes.



References for Myofascial Release:

  1. Yao, Jian; Hu, Ling; Song, Xiao-Ge; Zheng, Bao-Zhu; Zhou, Feng; Zhang, Cheng (2013). “Influence of moxibustion at ‘Shènshù’ (BL-23) and ‘Zúsānli’ (ST-36) on Ras-MAPK signal pathways in synovial tissues of rats with experimental rheumatoid arthritis”.World Journal of Acupuncture – Moxibustion. 23 (2): 29–33.
  2. Cardini, Francesco; Weixin, Huang (1998). “Moxibustion for Correction of Breech Presentation”.JAMA. 280 (18): 1580–4.
  3. Lee, Myeong Soo; Choi, Tae-Young; Kang, Jung Won; Lee, Beom-Joon; Ernst, Edzard (2010). “Moxibustion for Treating Pain: A Systematic Review”. The American Journal of Chinese Medicine. 38 (5): 829.
  4. Lee, Myeong Soo; Choi, Tae-Young; Park, Ji-Eun; Lee, Song-Shil; Ernst, Edzard (2010). “Moxibustion for cancer care: A systematic review and meta-analysis”. BMC Cancer. 10: 130.
  5. Lee, M. S.; Shin, B.-C.; Kim, J.-I.; Han, C.-h.; Ernst, E. (2010). “Moxibustion for Stroke Rehabilitation: Systematic Review”. Stroke. 41(4): 817.
  6. Lee, Dong-Hyo; Kim, Jong-In; Lee, Myeong Soo; Choi, Tae-Young; Choi, Sun-Mi; Ernst, Edzard (2010). “Moxibustion for ulcerative colitis: A systematic review and meta-analysis”. BMC Gastroenterology. 10: 36.
  7. Lee, Myeong Soo; Choi, Tae-Young; Park, Ji-Eun; Ernst, Edzard (2010). “Effects of moxibustion for constipation treatment: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials”. Chinese Medicine. 5: 28.
  8. Kim, Jong-In; Choi, Jun-Yong; Lee, Hyangsook; Lee, Myeong Soo; Ernst, Edzard (2010). “Moxibustion for hypertension: A systematic review”. BMC Cardiovascular Disorders. 10: 33.
  9. Ammar, Tarek. “Monochromatic infrared photo energy in diabetic peripheral neuropathy.” International Scholarly Research Network.   484307: 8.


References for Myofascial Release:

  1. Nielsen A, Knoblauch NTM, Dobos GJ, Michalsen A, Kaptchuk TJ. The effect of Gua Sha treatment on the microcirculation of surface tissue: a pilot study in healthy subjects. Explore (NY). 2007;3(5) (October):456-466.
  2. Nielsen A 1995 Gua Sha: A Traditional Technique for Modern Practice. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone.
  3. Kwong KK, Kloetzer L, Wong KK et al. Bioluminescence imaging of heme oxygenase-1 upregulation in the Gua Sha procedure. J Vis Exp. 2009.
  4. Xia ZW, Zhong WW, Meyrowitz JS, Zhang ZL. The role of heme oxygenase-1 in T cell-mediated immunity: the all encompassing enzyme. Curr Pharm Des. 2008;14(5):454-464
  5. Chan S, Yuen J, Gohel M, Chung C, Wong H, Kwong K. Guasha-induced hepatoprotection in chronic active hepatitis B: A case study. Clin Chim Acta. 2011;in412; 1686-1688.
  6. Schwickert ME, Saha FJ, Braun M, Dobos GJ. [Gua Sha for migraine in inpatient withdrawal therapy of headache due to medication overuse.]. Forsch Komplementmed. 2007;14(5) (October):297-300.
  7. Nielsen A. Postherpetic neuralgia in the left buttock after a case of shingles. Explore (NY). 2005;1(1) (January):74.
  8. Chiu C-Y, Chang C-Y, Gau M-L. [An experience applying Gua-Sha to help a parturient women with breast fullness]. Hu Li Za Zhi. 2008;55(1) (February):105-110.
  9. Braun M, Schwickert M, Nielsen A et al. Effectiveness of Traditional Chinese “Gua Sha” Therapy in Patients with Chronic Neck Pain; A Randomized Controlled Trial. Pain Med. 2011;12(3) (January 28):362-9.
  10. Chiu J-Y, Gau M-L, Kuo S-Y, Chang Y-H, Kuo S-C, Tu H-C. Effects of Gua-Sha therapy on breast engorgement: a randomized controlled trial. J Nurs Res. 2010;18(1) (March):1-10.
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 2 reviews
by Thomas White on Cupping

Dr Hill is the best at this. I have experienced so much relief from this approach. Dr. Hill takes time in her assessment and is right on with how to approach a problem reported to her. She is wonderful!

by Phoenix, AZ on Cupping

Dr. Hill is the best in her field!! She is amazing. Caring, compassionate and very knowledgeable!! I am so happy I found her!! She has helped me minimize my back pain, decrease anxiety, and feel more energized! I would highly recommend Dr. Hill.