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Massage Techniques – Part 2

There is a lot of misinformation and prejudice towards Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and oriental techniques in general. Since this is what I specialise in I decided to talk about few manipulative techniques that can be used together (or separately) to restore the natural energy balance and body wellness.

Hopefully this small contribution to the body of knowledge on the web will help setting the record straight about the true and proven benefits of TCM.

This is the second part, and if you missed the first one you can find it here.

CUPPING

Cupping therapy might be trendy and “new agey” now, but it is definetely not new. It goes back to ancient Chinese and Middle Eastern cultures, described first also in an Egyptian papyrus dated 1,550 B.C. This therapy consists in placing special cups, heated with fire using alcohol or herbs, on the skin for a few minutes to create suction. The cups can be made of glass, bamboo or silicone, and the session can be described as “wet” or “dry”.

During a dry session of cupping only suction is used, and the cups can be removed and replaced quickly or simply dragged along your skin. During the wet cupping instead a tiny cut on your skin is made and the suction of the cups is used to drag out a small quantity of blood. Your practitioner, your medical condition, and your preferences will help determine what method is used, but to be honest I have never seen wet cupping being used in a Western country.

At the base of cupping’s principles there is the belief that the suction facilitates the healing with the flow of blood and “qi” in the body. This may relieve local muscle tension, but generally improve relaxation, overall blood flow and promote cell repair. It may also help form new connective tissues and create new blood vessels in the scars. Cupping has been used to treat a wide range of conditions, including migraines, anxiety, fertility, rheumatic disease, blood disorders, skin disorders etc.

Before you get concerned, I must say there aren’t many side effects associated with cupping. But the ones you may experience will typically occur during your treatment or immediately after. These includes feeling lightheaded or dizzy, sweating or nausea. If you will experience wet cupping there is an higher risk of infection, burning or bruising, although some red bruises left by the cups are perfectly normal and will disappear in maximum 3 to 4 days. Extra caution should be taken also for children, seniors, pregnant or menstruating women, but generally always check with your GP or pratictioner first.

GUA SHA

Gua sha is a natural, alternative therapy coming from ancient China that involves scraping your skin with a massage tool to improve your circulation. The name comes from the word “gua”, that means “scraping” and “sha”, which are the transitory therapeutic petechiae intentionally created by the pratictioner with the tool.

Usually before the session the pratictioner applies massage oil on the skin, then starts scraping it with short or long strikes and always towards one direction. Generally gua sha is performed on a person’s back, buttocks, neck, arms, and legs, but a gentle version of it is even used on the face.

This technique is intended to address stagnant energy, qi, in the body responsible for inflammation. Rubbing the skin’s surface is thought to help break up this energy, reduce inflammation, and promote healing. That is why it is usually used to relieve muscle and joint pain and relief musculoskeletal disorders. But gua sha can also boost the immune system healping treating a cold, fever, or problems with the lungs, and other benefits include helping women during menopause, insomnia, anxiety and fatigue.

But, does it have any side effect? As a natural healing remedy, I can say gua sha is safe. It should not be painful, but because it involves rubbing or scraping skin bruises can occur, although you should not bleed. Bruising usually disappears within a couple of days, but if you take blood thinners or had recent surgery you should not have the treatment done. As always, check with your GP and pratictioner.

Moxibustion stick burning and glowing

Massage techniques – Part 1

There is a lot of misinformation and prejudice towards Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and oriental techniques in general. Since this is what I specialise in I decided to talk about few manipulative techniques that can be used together (or separately) to restore the natural energy balance and body wellness.

Hopefully this small contribution to the body of knowledge on the web will help setting the record straight about the true and proven benefits of TCM.

TUI NA

The term “Tui Na” (pronounced “twee naw”), which literally means “pinch and pull,” refers to a form of Chinese manipulative body therapy often used in conjunction with many other therapies, such as moxibustion, acupuncture, cupping, herbalism, etc.

During a Tui na session, the pratictioner may use a variety of manipulation methods, from gentle to very firm, such as brush, knead, roll, press, and rub the body areas. Tui na is not generally used for pleasure and relaxation, but rather as a treatment to address specific patterns of disharmony and iillness. Infact, like acupuncture, Tui na aims to harmonize yin and yang in the body by manipulating the Qi in the acupuncture channels. It also includes what is popularly known as “acupressure,” where practitioners use finger pressure instead of needles to stimulate the acupuncture points.

In ancient China, medical therapy was often classified as either “external” or “internal” treatment. Tui na was one of the external methods, although it can be used to address both internal diseases and external injuries. Many people seek it to relieve multiple disorders including insomnia, constipation, headaches, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, premenstrual syndrome, and emotional problems. It can also treat disorders related to digestive, respiratory, and reproductive systems, stiff neck, distension of shoulders, sciatica, and sore back.

MOXIBUSTION

Moxibustion (or “moxa”) is a form of heat therapy in which dried plant materials are burned on or very near the surface of the skin. Usually the material used is Chinese mugwort (aka Artemesia), but it can be made of a mix of other substances as well.

Moxibustion can be direct and indirect. During direct moxibustion, a small, cone-shaped amount of moxa is placed on top of an acu-point and burned. This type can be scarring and non-scarring, depending on the fact that moxa stays on the skin area until it burns out completely, or it is removed before it burns the skin. I must admit I have never seen a scarring moxibustion technique in Western countries, while in China was quite common.

Infact indirect moxibustion is currently the most popular form of care because there is a much lower risk of pain or burning. The practitioner lights one end of a moxa stick, roughly the shape and size of a cigar, and holds it close to the area being treated for several minutes until the area turns red. Another indirect form combines moxa on top of acupuncture needles.

Benefits of moxibustion

The general purpose of moxibustion, like several forms of Traditional Chinese Medicine, is to strengthen the blood, maintain general health and stimulate the flow of qi. That is why it is very common for patients receiving moxibustion to report a sudden flowing of warmth that quickly radiates along a specific pathway, away from the site of application. This is a good result, as it indicates the arrival and flow of the Qi in the freed energy channel. Usually the patient also experiences a pleasant heating sensation that penetrates deep into the skin, but should not feel any pain, blistering or scarring unless the moxa is left in place for too long.

Moxibustion can be used for several general diseases as well, such as pain due to injury or arthritis, digestive or bowel problems, gynecological conditions (quite common breech presentation in late term pregnancy), protection against cold and flu strains, and many more conditions that follow a “cold pattern” and naturally feel better after heat application.

Moxa can be easily used at home and itt is not uncommon for some practitioners to train their patients to use moxa on themselves to strengthen the effect of the clinical sessions between appointments. But although it is a very safe practice, to gain the best benefits from a Tui na and moxibustion treatment right for your condition, it is always better to check with a professional pratictioner first.

 

 

Photo: G. Olivetti

6 Pros & Cons of Acupuncture

There are many forms of alternative medicine that have gained popularity to those who are open-minded enough to be accustomed to their application. One popular treatment is acupuncture, which is able to relieve various types of pain, relaxing and for reducing stress levels in the body, including other issues to wellness. It basically works in order to help your body heal itself. But what exactly is it?

Acupuncture is a traditional Chinese remedy that is at least 2,500 years old. It works by correcting the imbalances of your Qi (energy flow) at some parts of your body close to your skin, by inserting some thin and sterile needles into specific points of your body (acupoints).

acupoints-tcm

Even though this tecnique can radically improve your health, before booking an appointment with the nearest acupuncturist in town, you should ask yourself if it is the correct type of treatment for you at the moment. Acupuncture certainly comes with many advantages, however, some people believe that there are certain disadvantages that should be taken into consideration. Well, take a better look at the pros and cons of acupuncture to determine if this is indeed advantageous or otherwise.

PROS

  1. Painless Tecnique and Very Few Side-Effects
    Most people evalue acupuncture sessions to produce minimal side-effects. Despite the fact that this method will allow the use of needles to penetrate the pores of the skin, the skill of the treatment provider will make the experience as painless as possible.
  2. Provides Higher Energy Levels
    The rejuvenating power of acupuncture may cause the feeling of being energized after undergoing a session, according to many people. This may have actually come from the stress management or pain relief capabilities of acupuncture.
  3. Can Be Incorporated with Traditional Treatments
    Acupuncture can be incorporated with treatment plans, unlike other methods such as herbal therapy, supplements, and other alternative medicines. For this reason, patients are able to take medication and following the medical advice of their physician while having acupuncture treatment. In this way it can be given a huge amount of relief that a patient can get (take the best of both sides!).
  4. More than just Pain Control
    Acupuncture is also known to help certain individuals with nausea complaints, ongoing vomiting, problems with the stomach, and even migraine headaches. Although many people may be hesitant to use acupuncture as a first-line treatment for such issues, this practice can often provide some, if not complete, relief when other traditional forms of medicine are lacking.
  5. Acupuncture Practice Requires Professional Studies
    Those who want to become an acupuncturist will be required to study a lot to get practical skills and knowledge. In some countries it will also require the person to pass a national exam to gain a license to practice. This will ensure that patients undergoing acupuncture will gain professional treatment, as when you go to see your GP.
  6. New Forms of Acupuncture don’t even Require Needles. 
    In the last 2,000 years, acupuncture has only evolved new practices a few times. Thanks to modern technology, one of those innovative periods in this alternative medicine practice is today. Instead of using needles, some acupuncturists are using low intensity laser beams instead to replicate the nervous system responses that the needles would typically provide. Acupressure also provides a viable alternative. In this practice, the pressure points where the needles would be placed are simply pressed to provide similar results. Because acupressure is non-invasive, many doctors are recommending this practice as a acupuncture alternative, especially when there is fear of needles.

CONS

  1. Infections can Occur
    The quality of the sanitation process on the acupuncture needles is essential. Without doing so, infection can occur which will bring about pain and in the worst cases life-threatening circumstances. If possible, you can ask the acupuncturist to witness how the sanitation process should be done or you can also see if it comes from a sealed package prior to use.
  2. Training and Experience Can Affect Treatment Quality
    Those who aspire to become an acupuncturist should include real experience to their qualification. So if you will be under the care of a novice or someone who is still new to this profession, treatment can sometimes become painful. Always talk to an acupuncturist about their experiences and ask for references to discuss treatment practices outside of the clinic before agreeing to any procedure.
  3. Not Guaranteed of Success
    Just like most medical processes, acupuncture can’t assure success in treatment. In fact, it may not be beneficial at all. According to a clinical research related to this practice, many patients have found out that there were no noticeable results when they completed their sessions. There were also instances that people feel worse after paying a visit to an acupuncturist. Even if you may have relaxed throughout the session, the issues of chronic pain might still be there when the procedure has finished.
  4. Takes a Lot of Time to Succeed
    In order to get relief from chronic pain, acupuncture provides immediate results after the session. However, in the worst clinic scenarios it will take around two to three months before experiencing relief for those having chronic conditions. For this matter, it will require the patient to visit an acupuncturist at least one or two times a week in order to achieve the said results. The number of treatment sessions may vary depending on the specification of the provider. The only problem though is that people end up spending a lot more money on something that could not do them any good.
  5. Might Disrupt Daily Routines
    The fact that visiting an acupuncturist can provide relief from pain, it can also offer a number of behavioural changes for the patient. Such changes will include sleeping patterns and appetite. Whether it is an endorphin overload, relief from pain, or the removal of anxiety, many people find themselves feeling an increasing sense of fatigue in their dailylife. Although all of these are temporary, and aren’t necessarily a bad thing, this can be a cause for concern when it reaches more than two to three weeks.
  6. It can be Expensive
    I can only talk about U.K. costs. But starting prices for acupuncture treatment vary considerably across the country. In London, the cost of a first treatment, which can take anywhere between an hour and an hour and a half, can range from £50-£70. In the rest of the country the ranges are sometimes about £10 lower.

The pros and cons of acupuncture show that there is a chance for many people to receive some unique benefits. Although acupuncture doesn’t work for everyone, it may be worth a try. It is just up to you to consider all the options you have in order to achieve the best of your health condition. Hope this short list will help you in your decision!

 

 

Picture taken from: https://afsananaturecure.com/

The Healing Technique of Hand Reflexology

Every single part of the human body is connected through the nerves through feet, hands and ears“. This is what the ancient healing technique of reflexology believes.

According to this principle, the different organs in the body have nerve endings that culminate in the palms of the hands and the soles of the feet. These nerve endings and their associated organs have been identified by reflexologists and divided into various zones or pressure points. Any disfunction or blockage in the organs causes pain in the associated pressure point and when this one is stimulated, the blockage is removed and the organ returns to its proper function.

If you would like to compare, the prime difference between the hand reflexology and foot reflexology is that the first one uses the key points in the hands, instead of the feet, for stimulating the nerve to relieve tension, stress and imbalances of various connected parts/organs. Hands are also more flexible and the reflexes are much deeper beneath the skin as compared to the feet where the reflexes lie close to the skin surface. This means that one needs to reach deeper and hold for a longer time period in hand reflexology to stimulate a point in the hand as compared to the feet reflexology, where the effect in much efficient and quick.

Nowadays our hands are perhaps the most active parts of the human body, as most of our daily activities involve the use of the hands in a more sedentary lifestyle. It is no wonder that most people’s hands and bodies are in such agony! Hand reflexology is actually a natural form of alternative massage therapy that targets the key body zones of your body right from the palm of your hands. There are people who get instant relief from various conditions by doing this and even more who get gradual benefits only by doing it daily.

Studies conducted to measure the efficacy of this olistic massage have shown that it is beneficial for the whole body circulation and heart and produces the same positive effects on the brain as meditation. Plus, reflexology can help you to beat stress. It is also used to treat diseases and conditions such as constipation, headaches (migraine or sinus induced), and asthma.

Hand reflexology is a popular and easy self-massage technique. A simple massage takes only about ten minutes and it does not require any special oil or lotion, unless you want it, but only thumb, finger, and hand massage movements. One should be familiar with a hand chart, which is a graphic display of how each part of the body is represented in both hands. Using this chart as a guide, you can focus the massage on specific problem areas.

hand-small-reflexology

By following a series of simple steps, an easy hand reflexology self-treatment can be performed. You should follow these steps first on the right hand, followed by the left.

  1. Sit in a comfortable chair in a quiet room, use relaxing music, pillows, incense or candles as you wish. Enter a state of relaxation using a bit of your favorite oil hands, if you like.
  2. Rub the cream on your hands for several minutes until completely absorbed. This will relax your hands and increase flexibility in preparation for applying reflexology. Be sure not to use a cream or oil greasy your hands are not slippery.
  3. Close your eyes and focus on any area of your body where you feel an uncomfortable pain. Sometimes you just feel as if some part of your body feel misaligned.
  4. Consult a hand reflexology map to identify the points of reflection in your hands that correspond to the parts of your body you want to work.
  5. Firmly press the reflex point you need to stimulate. You can gradually increase the pressure to make sure you’re “activating” the reflex, but loose a little if you feel some pain.
  6. Hold the pressure for 30 seconds and release. Wait a few seconds and repeat. You can press either 30 seconds or you can press and release the point of a pulsed for 30 seconds.
  7. Use your thumb to apply light pressure technique pressure if you are uncomfortable. To do this, use a circular motion over the same point of reflection for about 5 seconds, then rotates in a circular in the opposite direction for 5 seconds. Repeated several times for each point of reflection.
  8. Reflexology applies to all areas in both hands, but lend him more attention on problem areas.
  9. When you’ve finished your reflexology session sit quietly for at least 10 minutes. If possible, lie down and rest well for half an hour.
  10. Drink several glasses of water after applying reflexology. Water will help to drain the toxins released from your organs and muscles during the session.

 

 

 

Picture taken from: http://www.massageiraniyan.ir/fa/galleryfa/the-pictures/category/1-anatomy