Gua sha & Cupping

Gua sha

Gua sha has been an integrated therapeutic modality in Chinese Medicine for millennia. The practitioner takes an implement, either a jar lid or a special tool, and scrapes (gua), or “press-strokes” the skin in one direction several times. This creates “transitory therapeutic petechiae”, the appearance on the skin of stripes or areas of mottled purple or red (sha), which arise from the action of scraping.

Gua sha has a wide ranging therapeutic effect:

  • Increases the surface circulation of blood, which reduces or resolves pain.
  • Immune and anti-inflammatory effect
  • Effective with chronic disease, hepatitis B

At Rivertown Acupuncture, gua sha has proven especially effective to resolve the pain and free up mobility for frozen shoulder. Because it releases heat, Gua sha is also crucial to any treatment of an emerging inflammotry condition, such as flulike symptoms or bronchial and respiratory illnesses.


Cupping, similarly to gua sha, is a method rooted in a long history of Chinese medicine. Essentially, the practice of cupping involves suction of cup on skin, enabling the skin to lift from the subcutaneous layers and increasing local flow of blood and fluids. Prolonged cupping can lead to purple ‘bruise’ marks, similar to the petechiae that surfaces in gua sha.

At Rivertown Acupuncture, silicone cups are used for sliding cupping, which creates a deep and satisfying massage after an acupuncture session. Sliding cups are also integral to some treatments for pain, such as that of plantar fasciitis, foot arch pain and neck and face pain. We use glass cups for stationary cupping as part of a treatment for cold conditions such as onset of common cold, respiratory illness that derive from cold, and pain that worsens with cold.