cupping and massage by Dawn Balusik

Manual therapies are another important modality of Oriental medicine, which Dr. Dawn may incorporate into acupuncture treatments. These can include acupressure, massage, myofascial release, medical qi gong, cupping and gua sha.


“The physician must be experienced in many things, but most assuredly in massage.”
– Hippocrates, father of modern medicine

Many cultures throughout the world have developed various massage and manual therapy techniques, including cupping, and have been using them for thousands of years, to promote healing and wellness.

Massage, cupping and manual therapies improve circulation, which increases blood and lymph flow, bringing fresh oxygen and nutrients to body tissues, and assisting the elimination of cellular waste products. This speeds healing after injury, relieves pain and enhances recovery from disease. Massage also promotes a general sense of well-being, enhances self-esteem and relieves stress. And it assists the circulatory and immune systems to benefit blood pressure, circulation, muscle tone, digestion and skin tone.

Dawn’s background as a licensed massage therapist since 1997 gives her another valuable skill to incorporate into acupuncture treatments. Depending on the patient’s condition, Dawn may add massage therapy techniques including Acupressure, Swedish, Neuromuscular, Deep Tissue, Trigger Point, Cranio-Sacral and Russian Kurashova massage. She also has training in medical Qi Gong, as well as Myofascial Release (as taught by John F Barnes) which she incorporates into most acupuncture treatments.

What is Cupping?

Cupping is a bodywork technique that is commonly employed in Oriental medicine. Both the Native American and the Greek cultures also had their own versions of cupping. Today, cupping involves the use of small glass, rubber, silicone or plastic cups to form a suction on the skin. The suction pulls the superficial layers of skin and muscle away from the body to greatly increase the flow of energy, blood and lymph, which releases toxicity and pain.

cupping photoThe cups may remain stationary for up to 15 minutes, or be slid across fleshy areas, such as the back, with the aid of an oil or lotion. Cupping is mainly used for the treatment of pain and lung diseases (like chronic cough and asthma), though it can be used for other disorders as well. For most people, cupping feels like a deep massage that releases tension.

Cupping can leave discoloration on the skin. These marks can be red or purple and look like a bruise, but, unlike a bruise, there is no pain when moved or touched, and it fades within days. It is actually a hickey rather than a bruise. Doctors of Oriental medicine recognize this discoloration as a sign that there was “blood stagnation” (poor circulation) in the area, and that the cupping has cleared all or part of it. In subsequent cupping sessions, there will be significantly less discoloration, and eventually, none at all, signaling that all of the “blood stagnation” in the area has been resolved.

Cupping gained some media attention a few years ago when famous swimmer Michael Phelps was seen during the 2016 Olympics with cupping marks all over his back and shoulders. This is because cupping can improve athletic performance by releasing myofascial adhesions and greatly increasing circulation.

What is Gua Sha?

Gua sha is another Oriental medicine technique used to increase circulation of blood and fluids, disperse toxicity and relieve pain. Similar to cupping, it strongly increases circulation of blood in the area, but instead of a cup with suction, it uses a tool to rub or scrape an area of skin that has been well lubricated with oil or linament. The tool can be a ceramic soup spoon or a piece of jade or horn that has been shaped specifically for use as a gua sha tool.

Most patients say it feels like a deep massage and they enjoy the feeling of tension relief after the gua sha session.

Like cupping, gua sha can also leave skin discolorations, known as petechiae, that are not painful or tender and fade within days. Subsequent gua sha sessions will produce less petechiae, until no more discolorations arise from gua sha treatment. This is the indication that the “blood stagnation” in the area has been resolved.

What is Moxabustion?

Moxabustion is the burning of a Chinese herb, called moxa (also known as mugwort or artemesia.)

The warmth from the burning of this herb is used to invigorate the flow of Qi (energy) to enhance health and relieve pain. Very often it is used to relieve specific kinds of arthritis, certain types of abdominal pain and acute injuries.moxabustion

Moxa is used in several different forms, but the form that Dawn Potter-Balusik most often uses is that of a “moxa roll” which looks very much like a cigar. It is placed above the skin to warm the appropriate acu-points and/or painful areas. It does not touch or burn the skin and simply feels like pleasant radiant heat.