Cupping + Gua Sha


Cupping and Gua Sha

The cupping procedure commonly involves creating a small area of low air pressure next to the skin.

The cups themselves can be various shapes including balls or bells, and may range in size from 1 to 3 inches (25mm – 75mm) across the opening. Plastic and glass are the most common materials used today, replacing the horn, pottery, bronze and bamboo cups used in earlier times. The low air pressure required may be created by heating the cup or the air inside it with an open flame or a bath in hot scented oils, then placing it against the skin. As the air inside the cup cools, it contracts and draws the skin slightly inside. More recently, the vacuum can be created with a mechanical suction pump acting through a valve located at the top of the cup – this method is practiced at our clinic, as eliminates the possible dangers inherent to the fire-based method.

In practice, cups are normally used only on softer tissue that can form a good seal with the edge of the cup. They may be used singly or in large number to cover a larger area. They may be used by themselves or placed over an acupuncture needle. Skin may be lubricated, allowing the cup to move across the skin slowly.

Depending on the specific treatment, skin marking is common after the cups are removed. This may be a simple red ring that disappears quickly, but more aggressive treatments can result in deeper bruising. In general, the longer a cup is left on, the more of a circular mark is created.


Gua Sha is an ancient therapy method that is used to relieve the stagnation of blood that obstructs surface tissues and inhibits organ function. The meaning of the Chinese character “Gua” is to rub or to scrape while the second character “Sha” means a reddish and raised area of skin.

The Gua Sha technique facilitates healing of the body by pressing or “scraping” the skin repeatedly with certain blunt, rounded tools.
The smooth edge is placed against the pre-oiled skin surface, pressed down firmly, and then moved down the muscles or along the pathway of the acupuncture meridians. The strokes are repeated until the Sha appears, resulting in the appearance of red, elevated patches on the treated area.

This may result in sub-cutaneous blemishing, which usually takes 2–4 days to fade; Sha rash does not represent capillary rupture as in 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. Although the marks on the skin look painful, they are not.

Gua Sha is a versatile preventive, curative and strengthening TCM technique. It is particularly effective in relieving body pain from headaches to shoulder, neck, back and joint pains as well as nerve pains, PMS, rheumatism and osteoporosis.