East Asian Physical Medicine

There are a number of techniques that fall into the category of East Asian Physical Medicine. The techniques that I use most often include Gua Sha, Cupping, Massage, and Moxibustion.

Gua Sha

Gua Sha is an East Asian folk medicine. Gua means to scrape or rub. Sha is a ‘reddish, elevated, millet-like skin rash’ (aka petechiae). Sha is the term used to describe Blood stasis in the subcutaneous tissue before and after it is raised as petechiae. Gua Sha is technique that raises Sha rash or petechiae and is very therapeutic. Gua Sha can be used for acute or chronic pain. If normal finger pressure on the area causes blanching that does not fade quickly, Gua Sha is indicated. In addition to resolving pain, Gua Sha can help prevent upper respiratory infections and asthma.

Lubricate the area to be Gua Sha-ed with a thick oil. A round-edged instrument is then applied to the treatment area with firm downward strokes. Stroke one area until the petechiae is completely raised, then move onto the next area. If there is no Blood stasis the petechiae will not form and the skin will only turn pink. For lubrication I use Badger balm or another type of thick salve, often the lid of the container can be used to administer Gua Sha.

What kind of instrument is used to Gua Sha?

A soup spoon, coin, or slice of water buffalo horn is traditionally used in Asia. I use a simple metal cap with a rounded lip or ceramic Chinese soup spoon. In two to four days the Sha petechiae should fade. In cases of Blood deficiency it may take longer to fade and further support is necessary.

Often patients feel immediate relief from their physical discomfort.  Gua Sha circulates Qi and Blood, mimicks sweating, and moves Fluids. These fluids contain metabolic waste congest the body. Gua Sha improves circulation and metabolic processes. It is a useful remedy for external and internal pain of acute and chronic nature.

Gua Sha is a Safe and effective form of medicine. After receiving Gua Sha, activity should be moderate and resemble rest. Drugs, alcohol, overexertion, overeating or fasting is not recommended (for general health and especially after Gua Sha.)

This link is an excellent resource about Gua Sha: http://www.guasha.com/whatis.html


Cupping is another type of treatment I often use. It stimulates acupuncture points by applying suction through a metal, wood or glass jars, in which a partial vacuum has been created. This technique forces blood into the area and pulls out toxins and congestion. Cupping is used for low backache, sprains, soft tissue injuries, and helping relieve fluid from the lungs in chronic bronchitis.


There are many forms of East Asian Massage. I am trained in Shiatsu and Tui Na and Shonishin. With my patients, I most often focuses on the Hua Tou Jia Jie points that are on either side of the vertebrae. By clearing the energy in the spine, the whole body can more easily attain balance.


In East Asian medicine, moxibustion is primarily used for people who have a cold or stagnant condition. Burning  moxa expels cold and warms the meridians. This leads to smoother flow of blood and qi. In Western medicine, moxibustion has successfully been used to turn breech babies into a normal head-down position prior to childbirth. A landmark study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1998 found that up to 75% of women suffering from breech presentations before childbirth had fetuses that rotated to the normal position after receiving moxibustion at an acupuncture point on the Bladder meridian. Other studies have shown that moxibustion increases the movement of the fetus in pregnant women, and may reduce the symptoms of menstrual cramps when used in conjunction with traditional acupuncture.