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Gua Sha for Healthy Skin

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There are many elements to keeping our skin healthy and vibrant. For instance, are we giving our bodies enough water each day? Are we eating healthy, organic, whole foods?  Are we getting enough sleep? Are we dealing with our daily stressors? All of these things can affect how we feel on the inside and how we look on the outside. But in today’s busy society, many rarely take the time to care for themselves. This can show on our faces in the form of wrinkles, dry lackluster skin and even discoloration.

There is hope to fix this, and it’s called Gua Sha. Gua Sha may be just what the doctor ordered for attaining healthy skin.

Gua Sha is a technique that involves the quick, repetitive scraping of a flat jade, natural horn, ceramic or metal tool across the skin to relieve tension and pain and stimulate lymphatic drainage. It can be used anywhere on the body, but is frequently used as a part of facial acupuncture treatments.

Facial Gua Sha is gentler than when it is utilized in other areas of the body. When performing Gua Sha on the face, the tool is pulled along the skin instead of the deep scraping used on other areas. Also the tools used on the face are usually made of jade, rose quartz or porcelain, which provides a cooling sensation on the skin surface. The purpose of Gua Sha on the face is to increase lymph drainage and release facial muscle tension.

The lymphatic system relies on movement. We tend to get this vital movement through exercise or massage. But if you’re not engaging in regular exercise, the lymphatic system can become sluggish and clogged. This means that it doesn’t perform optimally.  When lymph fluid is circulating and draining properly, added Gua Sha can reduce inflammation and increase the body’s ability to remove toxins and dirt that have built up in the skin. This means less facial puffiness, clearer sinuses and less acne.

Facial Gua Sha can be beneficial for reducing tension held in the face and neck areas too. This may lead to fewer headaches, less jaw tightness and decreased neck pain.  For people who clench their teeth, Gua Sha can be a game changer because it releases the tension built up in the muscles.

One more thing that facial Gua Sha provides is exfoliation. The action of gentle scraping on the face improves blood flow and allows for the dead skin cells to slough off more easily and frequently. This can even out facial skin tone, creating a radiant, healthy complexion.

If you are concerned about your skin tone, fine lines and wrinkles or you are experiencing neck and jaw pain, facial Gua Sha might be the extra tool you need.

Acupuncture for Carpal Tunnel

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As the weather warms, so too does the desire to be more active and spend time outside with friends and family. If you’re someone who spends a lot of the day on the computer, or in a job that requires other repetitive motions in your wrists and hands, you might be walking into summer in pain and wary of any upcoming bocce ball tournaments.

In some cases, repetitive movements of the wrist and fingers, including typing, can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome. Characterized by pain in the wrist and hand, carpal tunnel syndrome means the median nerve, which runs from the forearm to the wrist to the hand, has been compressed. This compression causes pain, numbness, tingling and occasional weakness of the wrist, arm and hand.

Conventional medicine treats true carpal tunnel syndrome with splints, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications and cortisone shots. If none of these work, then surgery is recommended. Carpal tunnel surgery is the second most common type of surgery in the United States, following back surgery.

However, many people who develop wrist pain are misdiagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome and sent to surgery when it isn’t needed. This can lead to further, more serious complications. It’s important to find out if  your discomfort is being caused by true carpal tunnel syndrome or just inflamed trigger points that need attention. When trigger points are “upset,” the pain can actually mimic the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) utilizes acupuncture, as well as many other modalities, to treat pain associated with carpal tunnel syndrome. Acupuncture and electroacupuncture can be extremely beneficial for those suffering from this condition.  A study conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital demonstrated acupuncture and electroacupuncture not only decrease pain, but also remap the brain. Before and after MRIs showed the carpal tunnel-related damage to the somatosensory cortex was repaired in participants who received acupuncture. This means those subjects actually showed continued improvement over time and their ability to function improved, too. 

Acupuncture is a safer alternative to NSAIDs, cortisone shots and surgery. Studies confirm acupuncture decreases inflammation and restores function to tight muscles and tendons. Many studies show acupuncture eliminates the pain source rather than just masking the symptoms. Acupuncture is cheaper, less invasive and has a much higher probability of providing permanent relief. But in order to do this, the proper diagnosis must be made.

As mentioned before, angry trigger points can mimic carpal tunnel pain. Acupuncture can also be very beneficial for those experiencing trigger-point pain. Any one of the many muscles in the arms can become angry from repetitive motion. By stimulating painful trigger points with acupuncture needles, the muscles fire and release. This allows the muscle fibers to return to a relaxed state, relieving pain.

Wrist pain can be a serious burden for those who suffer from it, but before writing off the possibility of all summer lawn games this year, consider giving acupuncture a try.

Cupping in Chinese Medicine

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Have you seen those dark purple cup marks on the upper back of your favorite celebrity lately and wondered what that was all about? That is from an ancient Chinese medicine technique called cupping, which is a wonderful and effective supplement to an acupuncture treatment.

Cupping describes the practice of Chinese medical practitioners using thick glass cups in certain regions of the body to relieve pain and for other medicinal uses. In what is called “fire cupping,” the acupuncturist takes the glass cup, saturates a cotton ball with alcohol and applies a small flame to the cotton. The cotton is then placed in the glass cup (with lightning speed and accuracy) whereby the oxygen is removed from the glass and the skin is suctioned up tightly. What the cup is doing is drawing pressure out and up. Nowadays, some practitioners use plastic suction cups or cups made of bamboo.

There are two types of cupping: one is “dry cupping” and is the most common. This is where the cup stays put for about five minutes or more. The acupuncturist may in some instances use a small lancet to draw out a tiny amount of blood from an area before placing the cup over the region in what’s called “wet cupping.” The next type is called “moving cupping” and is the most pleasurable experience. This is when oil is put on the skin before the cup is suctioned so that the cup can be moved along a large region, for example, down your back.  This feels like a massage and is very relaxing and helpful for stiffness. Multiple cups are typically used for any of these forms of cupping.

Why cupping?

Cupping promotes blood flow, eases stiffness and pain, especially in the back, neck, and shoulders and lifts tense muscles. By promoting better circulation through cupping, tissues receive vital nutrients and oxygen. Cupping releases stagnation of blood and lymph fluid and removes harmful toxins. It has been shown to help respiratory ailments and the common cold, muscle conditions, stress, arthritis, digestion and gynecological issues.

Cupping feels wonderful during and after treatment, but any bathing suit modeling or cruise vacations should be postponed a few days after therapy due to local redness or purple color and perhaps bruising of the area. You might have a small cup mark, but this is very common, it should dissipate in a couple of days, and is not harmful. Of course, if you experience any other acute complications, see your physician.

Certain conditions are contraindicated for cupping techniques and your acupuncturist will advise against treatment. These conditions include broken skin, skin ulcers, high fever, inflammation, thin skin that bleeds easily, pregnancy (no cupping on the abdomen) and bony areas of the body.

Cupping is an old therapy, and although some patients have mentioned seeing their grandparents apply cupping using glass jars, it is not recommended to self-diagnose or to try fire cupping at home on your own. It can be dangerous and you could get a severe burn or blisters. See your friendly acupuncturist to give you a relaxing cupping treatment that is both safe and effective.