Acupuncture and Cupping

The art and practice of acupuncture and cupping has gained a lot of traction, especially here in the DMV area, lately. As a licensed and credentialed acupuncturist, I personally love using acupuncture and/or cupping as a method of relieving tension, anxiety, pain, and so many other health issues. Not a lot of people realize that acupuncture and cupping can be used for so many different reasons within a person. So while the idea of a bunch of needles sitting in your skin may not be the most appealing thought, I am here to tell you why acupuncture is so important and how it helps your body heal.

There are 361 main acupuncture points in our bodies and each of them are associated with a meridian, or an energetic pathway. Classic Chinese texts illustrate that acupuncture points were considered to be indentations where Qi – the vital force of the body – can flow. By tapping into those energetic pathways, we are actually opening and freeing them up so that our Qi can flow naturally and smoothly. A blockage of Qi in the meridians can cause tension, muscle aches, migraines, the list goes on and on. While every body is different when it comes to acupuncture, some patients may experience nothing at all, some a mild sensation, and some even experience a dull, deep aching which Acupuncturists call “De Qi'' which is thought to be the activation of Qi.

Similar to acupuncture, cupping is done in specific regions of the body based on what the body needs. With cupping, there are twelve main meridian lines and collaterals – pathways that distribute the vital Qi energies from the main meridians to the focus area. Instead of needles, this practice consists of suctioning up the body with either a glass or silicone cup. Cupping is one of the most ancient forms of physical therapy medicine – it can be dated back to the ancient Egyptians in 1550 BCE! While it was historically used to draw out toxic blood and pus from infected wounds and poisons from snakebites, it is more commonly known to be the treatment for athletes with their muscles – we’ve all seen the images of Michael Phelps with all those suction marks over him from the 2016 Rio Olympics.

There are two methods of cupping, wet or dry. Once the suction of the cup to the body is in place, it can either be left there to work out the muscles and flow in that area (dry cupping) or can be moved around to have the effect of a deep tissue massage stimulating the meridians and collaterals (wet cupping). This form of therapy can see results such as an increase in blood circulation, which in turn stimulates immune function and stimulates pain fibers, which can lead to pain reduction. I personally enjoy incorporating glass fire cups into my practice. They are easily disinfected and create great suction to really get the full cupping experience and opening of Qi for my patients.

Personally, I love the idea of using acupuncture and cupping over other conventional medicinal approaches when appropriate because they are a non-addictive, non-opioid approach to pain and other health concerns. Though the use of pharmaceuticals and other conventional approaches isn’t typically my first go to, acupuncture and cupping can be used in conjunction with them to help patients who have conventional prescriptions. Most of my clients actually find these practices relaxing, believe it or not! Some research even indicates that acupuncture can even help increase our empathy towards others, which is something much needed in the global pandemic times.

So what conditions do acupuncture and cupping help support? Here are some of my favorite things I have worked with patients on over my many years as a licensed acupuncturist:

  • Pain issues of all kinds – I have actually seen great results with chronic regional pain syndrome, which is wonderful because conventional treatment options for it are very limited
  • Grief, loss, trauma/PTSD, stress, or internal tension, anxiety, and depression
    Gut health issues such as IBS and inflammatory bowel disease (colitis and Chron’s disease)
  • Female hormone imbalances such as: endometriosis, PCOS, estrogen dominance peri-menopausal transition, menopausal symptoms
  • Cupping for lower neck and back pain/tension – particularly when it is related to disc herniation and when there is radiculopathy (pain that radiates down the extremities due to nerve compression in the spine)
  • Cupping for lung congestion – not many consider this but it is widely used in both Eastern and Western medicines and I personally seek out cupping for this condition

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