Is Cupping & Gua Sha right for you? Some clinical FAQs

With the profile of both cupping and gua sha being on the rise in media and medicine in recent years, many people are coming to Heart & Hands entirely new to experiencing these therapeutic modalities. It is both fun and rewarding to introduce people to these unique tools, and people often leave their first session in both amazement and relief! In the interest of introducing ever more people to these powerful treatments, I thought I would expand upon our existing FAQ to allow a deeper look behind the curtain. 

Here are a few questions we regularly get about our offerings to help with determining if Cupping and Gua sha is the right therapeutic modality for you!

Cupping therapy is an adjunct technique in which a local suction is created on the skin with the application of silicone cups. A provider places cups on your back, stomach, arms, legs or other parts of your body. Inside the cup, a vacuum or suction force pulls skin upward.

Gua sha is a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) practice ultilizing a smooth-edged tool to stroke your skin while they press on it. This motion raises small, red/purple dots that show under your skin called petechiae.

Q: On what areas of the body can Cupping & Gua sha be used?

A: Almost any! 

  • Gua sha is versatile in that we can adjust the pressure to whatever depth of tissue we are wanting to work in. Areas where skin is over bone can be scraped more lightly, still to great effect. 
  • Cupping tends to work best on areas of the body that are broad and fleshy, but we can use different sized cups to adjust to your specific bodily topography. 
  • Both modalities are contraindicated on the lumbosacral area and abdomen of people who are pregnant, over open wounds or areas of inflammation/lesions of the skin, on top of superficial arteries and veins, over palpable lymph nodes, over new scars, or over malignant tumors.

Q: How should I prepare for a Cupping & Gua sha session?

A: Hydrated, fed, and informed

Similar to acupuncture, make sure you have had a light snack around an hour before the session – no heavy meals right before, but also no fasting either. Come in well-hydrated!

Depending on what you want to work on, having information like ‘how long you have experienced your health issue’, and ‘what makes it better and worse’ will go a long way to making the most of our 30 minute session.

You will be given time to disrobe privately, so feel free to come in any garb!

Q: What aftercare should I do following a Cupping & Gua sha session?

A: Drink water, cover up, watch those bruises

Make sure to drink plenty of water post-treatment, and do your best to rest the remainder of the day. Low-impact exercise can be okay, having a warm bath or shower and gentle stretching is best. 

Do your best to keep the treatment areas covered up from wind and cold for 24-48 hours post-treatment. Both these modalities open up the most superficial channels on the body and leave them vulnerable to invasion – which could possibly lead to more pain or even getting sick!

Let us know if your bruising (or sha marks) doesn’t fade within 1-2 weeks, but for most people they do not last longer than 5-7 days, the same as a normal bruise.

Q: What do the marks from Cupping & Gua sha mean?

A: It depends!

The marks from Cupping & Gua sha, where the term sha comes from, can be used both diagnostically and prognostically. Which essentially means they can help us both determine what is a possible source of the pain, from a Chinese medicine perspective, and how that might be changing from treatment to treatment. 

The classic broken capillary/bruising marks are commonly due to underlying blood stasis – blood that is stuck in the channel / between tissues / in vessels, and not circulating properly. 

Redness without much bruising is typically considered to be a sign of heat in the channels, or the body more generally. 

A purple colour can indicate cold. Blisters after cupping can indicate the presence of dampness. 

This being said, no Chinese medicine diagnosis would be made on these presentations alone, and much more information is required to make a diagnosis. These marks can be one piece of the puzzle.

Q: Can I get Cupping & Gua sha alongside other treatment modalities?

A: Of course!

You are the captain of your own health journey. Some modalities are more complementary than others.

First, and most applicable to our system of treatment is Community Acupuncture! Acupuncture, cupping, and gua sha all arise from a shared lineage of traditional practices and philosophical and medical theory arising out of various parts of modern day China around 5000 years ago. These modalities today have a shared language about the body and the world that makes for a strongly symbiotic set of practices. When you get Community Acupuncture alongside Cupping & Gua sha at Heart & Hands, your treatment notes are shared between practitioners which allows us to ensure we are working collaboratively on your treatments. 

Additionally, most herbal medicines, talk therapy, and exercises can be combined with Cupping & Gua sha at your discretion – but follow the directions of those practitioners if they have prohibited bodywork alongside their treatments.

Other bodywork-focused modalities like massage for example might need a bit of spacing out from our appointments. People with a strong constitution could leave only 2-5 days between bodywork sessions. Those with more deficient or weak constitutions should leave a week or more between sessions to allow your body more time to integrate the treatment and recover fully.

Q: Can I use Cupping & Gua sha to help recover from surgery?

A: Absolutely! With some caveats…

We can certainly treat your body away from the surgical site once you are recovered enough to attend a session, but would need to wait until the wound is completely healed to approach the surgical site. 

Doing treatments away from the surgical site can help with your body’s circulation of waste products and assist with their removal. It is necessary to wait until swelling decreases and subsides almost completely to do Cupping in the vicinity of the surgical site (Gua sha can be performed while some swelling is present if the site has healed). 

Once the scar is established, we can use Cupping & Gua sha to help address any adhesions, and associated pain, circulation or nerve dysfunction, left-over from the healing process.

Q: Which modality is right for me?

A: Probably both!

For most people coming in for neck/back issues, I tend to use both together in a single treatment. However we will do a brief intake in your first session to determine based on the location and your subjective experience of pain and discomfort to guide us toward the right treatment for you.

Common conditions treated:
Tension headaches
Lower back pain
Shoulder and neck pain
Osteoarthritis (of the knee, hip, shoulder, etc)
Tennis elbow
Shin splints
Lymphatic drainage issues
Pelvic alignment
Carpal tunnel syndrome
Hip tension & pain
Breaking up scar tissue

Cupping & Gua sha are gentle, non-invasive, and effective treatment methods for a wide variety of conditions. Book in with us if you have some aches and pains that need attending to!

Jaay (Jade) Kulhawy-Bartlett, R.Ac.

Cupping & Gua sha at Heart & Hands

Wed3:00 – 6:45pm
Fri3:00 – 6:45pm

Please note, last session available 45 minutes before the end of each shift.

Sessions are 30 minutes

NEW clients, $50-80 sliding scale (includes $10 paperwork fee)
RETURNING clients, $40-70 sliding scale
Clients with MSP, $22-42 sliding scale

Still further questions? Contact us.

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