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How heat, scraping and electricity are as helpful as needles. | True Nature Clinic

How heat, scraping and electricity are as helpful as needles.

In the west, we are becoming more comfortable with the idea of acupuncture as a viable therapy for a number of health issues. What many of us don’t realize is that acupuncture is only one of many many meridian therapies used in Chinese Medicine. There are several other ways that the meridians can be stimulated to treat disease. In this article, I will briefly describe what some of those other treatments are, and how they promote health.

Acupuncture Needles

Acupuncture utilizes needles to stimulate specific point along the meridians (energy  pathways that run through the body). They are used to promote circulation, move the qi, break up stagnation, alleviate pain and ,more broadly, activate points to regulate general imbalances.

Moxabustion (heat)

Burning moxabustion (moxa) works by heating the meridians. It can be used in cases where there is a cold component to the disharmony or stasis. For example, I had a client who worked several hours a day in a meat packing plant freezer. He had a lot of pain in his hands and shoulders and heating them with moxa made a huge difference. Moxa is also used in cases where qi deficiency is involved (the person may get sick easily or have low energy), or when poor circulation is leading to pain.

Cupping (suction)

Gwyneth Paltrow made cupping famous a few years ago when she walked on a stage exposing the circles left from a cupping treatment across her shoulders.

Glass, Bamboo, or plastic cups can be used for this treatment, which involves suctioning cups onto the skin.  This suction is formed by either placing a flame in the cup and quickly removing the flame to create a vacuum just before placing it on the skin. The skin is then pulled into the cup to fill that vacuum.  Plastic cups that have an air pump can also be used. The pump sucks the air out of the cup pulling the skin in with it.

The cups are either left sitting in one spot during the treatment or, with the help of lotion, moved around along the muscles, pulling the muscles up as they go. These are mostly used to promote circulation along the meridians, however, they can also be used in cases where there are other forms of stasis, like congested lungs.  Moving cups in these cases will be used on the back to break up the stuck phlegm.

Guasha (scraping)

Guasha is a scraping technique that promotes the free flow of qi and blood in the meridians. It utilizes a horn, spoon,  coin, or a plastic tool that has a flat edge. The guasha tool is rubbed on the skin of the affected area. I have even seen guasha marks on the front of people’s throats in china to help dispel sore throats. It can be used on the back and shoulders to break up knots. The affected area is rubbed until the skin becomes red. You will often continue to see redness in that area for a couple days after the treatment.

Electrical Stimulation

Electrical stimulation (e-stim) enhances the pain alleviating effects of acupuncture. Electrodes are attached to the end of the needles and are set to various pulse patterns and frequieces. These pulses send messages to the pain receptors in your brain and the pain is decreased.

Ear Acupuncture (auricular acupuncture)

Auricular acupuncture works because of the powerful connection between the nerves on the ears and the brain. It is a more recently developed therapy with hundreds of points have been mapped out by he French and Chinese.

The first to fully create this map was Dr. Nogier, a french researcher of traditional health modalities. While visiting a rural area of France, he noticed that many of the older people in the village had certain point cauterized on their ears. He learned that it was a folk remedy for sciatica and began exploring the correlation between areas of the ear and parts of the body.  The Chinese caught wind of his research and quickly came up with their own auricular system. To this day you will see some points as the French ear point or the Chinese ear point (e.g. French Liver or Chinese Liver).

The National Acupuncture Detox Association (NADA) uses Auricular acupuncture as one of it’s main therapies to help clients going through withdrawal. Acupuncturists use auricular therapy for a variety of health issues including food or cigarette cravings, insomnia, and anxiety.


Chinese Medicine is over 2500 years old and continues to evolve. There are several therapies that have been cultivated during that time and new techniques are still being tried and developed to this day. This entry describes only a portion of these techniques.

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