Other treatment methods include moxibustion - using a smouldering herb to warm acupuncture points

Other treatment methods

As well as using stimulating the acupuncture points with needles and giving tailored diet and lifestyle advice, an acupuncturist can also call upon several other treatment methods, or ancillary techniques where required, offering many ways to work with different conditions and to encourage a return to balance.

Moxibustion

Moxibustion is the technique of using moxa to aid healing. It is often used in conjunction with acupuncture to enhance the effect of the treatment. The herb, Moxa, (artemsia argyi or mugwort as it is commonly known) is used to gently warm the acupuncture points. Consequently, this supplements the Qi and blood, warms and relaxes the muscles and body.

There are various grades or qualities of moxa that can be used in treatment. Moxa can be used directly on the skin, being made into small cones and placed on acupuncture points. It can also be used on the end of the needle, to send warmth through the needle into the body or by wafting a lighted moxa stick (a little like a cigar) along the meridian pathways.

The use of moxibustion on acupuncture point Bladder 67 (zhiyin) for turning breech babies is a well-documented treatment. Its apparent simplicity and non-invasive nature have made it a popular choice for pregnant women. It therefore offers another option to explore before opting for conventional medical procedures.

See the following article for more detailed information and research on the effects of moxa:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3789413/

Guasha

Guasha (pronounced gwahshah) is a cleansing technique used by many practitioners of traditional medicines.

In guasha, the practitioner uses a stroking action to methodically apply pressure to the skin with a specialised round-ended instrument. It is mostly used on the back, shoulders and neck but can be applied to other body areas.

Technically, guasha produces ‘transitory therapeutic petechiae that represent extravasation of blood in the subcutis’. Basically, the rubbing of the skin in a specific way, increases the circulation of blood in the surface tissues. As a result, this technique causes small red or purple spots (petechiae) called ‘sha’ to appear. The skin is not damaged in any way and the redness fades in a few days.

Guasha is used to move blocked Qi (energy), which is considered to be the main cause of pain and stiffness in muscles and joints. There have been many research trials conducted in China that show it’s effectiveness. There’s also a growing body of research in the West confirming the anti-inflammatory effects and immune stimulation properties of guasha.

For further information see:

http://www.pacificcollege.edu/news/press-releases/2015/05/05/science-gua-sha)

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17905355

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22928824

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21276190

Cupping

Other treatment methods also include cupping – an ancient technique used by Chinese medicine practitioners to restore balance in a person’s Qi. One of the earliest documentations of cupping can be found in the work titled A Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies. This was written by a Daoist herbalist by the name of Ge Hong and  dates to around 300 AD.

Cupping is the term applied to a technique that uses small glass cups as suction devices. Traditionally, bamboo cups were placed on the skin (now glass or plastic). Suction is created by placing an inverted glass cup over a small flame. The flame is removed and the cup (now with a vacuum) is placed onto the skin.

Once the suction has occurred, the cups can either be left in place or gently moved across the skin (often referred to as “gliding cupping). The suction in the cups causes the skin and superficial muscle layer to be lightly drawn into the cup. Cupping is much like the inverse of massage – rather than applying pressure to muscles, it uses gentle pressure to pull them upward. For most patients, this is a particularly relaxing and relieving sensation. Once suctioned, the cups are generally left in place for about ten minutes while the patient relaxes.

Generally, cupping is combined with acupuncture in one treatment, but it can also be used alone. The suction and negative pressure provided by cupping encourages the Qi to flow more freely. As a result, this can loosen muscles, encourage blood flow, and calm the nervous system.

Cupping is used to relieve back and neck pains, stiff muscles and it is also an invaluable treatment for the lungs to help clear congestion from a common cold. It can also help to control a person’s asthma. In fact, respiratory conditions are one of the most common maladies that cupping is used to relieve. Three thousand years ago, in the earliest Chinese documentation of cupping, it was recommended for the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis.

The following research article explains in more detail, the various mechanisms by which the beneficial effects of cupping may be explained from a biomedical perspective:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3235710/

Further review on available research on the benefits of cupping:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3289625/

Massage

Massage of the tissues (either with or without oil) may also be included, to free the flow of Qi in the meridian system. It therefore, can be used to influence the muscles and circulation of blood and lymph.

Various techniques can be used, to rub, stretch, tap or percuss the muscles. Most patients are generally more familiar with this treatment method from their experience of Western massage techniques. The main difference, is that the type of massage that an acupuncturist will use, will involve techniques focussed on specific meridians. In addition, working at various depths and in certain directions also influence the flow of Qi through the body.