Acupuncture may be the only form of Chinese Medicine you are familiar with. It is the most commonly used practice in America, but only scrapes the surface of Chinese Medicine. In our last blog, we mentioned many of the different practices and therapies used in Oriental Medicine, from vacuum pressure to qi gong.

In this blog we are going to explore some of the Oriental Medicine practices in more depth, giving you the information you need to decided if these treatments could help you with pain and illness. At Integrative Health, we offer acupuncture and Oriental Medicine as part of our primary care program. Learn more about our health services to see if it is right for you.

In a previous blog, we went over the benefits, treatments, and reasons why people choose acupuncture to help with physical and mental problems. If you want to learn more about common acupuncture you can find all the information there. In this blog we will go over the more unusual and unique Chinese practices.

Vacuum Pressure (Cupping)

Vacuum pressure, also known as cupping, seems to have gained popularity in recent years as athletes and olympians began using this strange therapy. If you watched the recent summer Olympics, you probably notices a few swimmers and other athletes with purple spots on their backs and arms.

According to USA Today, Ralph Reiff, a sports performance expert who used cupping on many of these Olympic athletes, started using cupping after his team learned the technique in China. The cups create a suction, pulling skin into the cups and allowing more blood flow in those areas, creating the marks.

How does it work?

There are a two different methods to cupping: dry and wet. Generally, most cupping techniques use glass cups, but bamboo, earthenware, and silicone can be used, according to WebMD.

Whichever method, wet or dry, the most popular cupping technique involves heating the cups. Alcohol, herbs, paper, or whatever else is held in the cup to heat it until the flame goes out. Once out, the cup is immediately place on the skin, as the air inside the cup cools, it creates a suction, pulling skin into the cups. The cups are usually left on for five to ten minutes.

More modern cupping uses no heat. Instead, the cups, which are still generally glass, have valves that are used to remove the air from the cup, creating a suction.

What are some benefits?

Cupping creates a suction as well as negative pressure which helps loosen muscles. The nervous system can also be sedated and blood flow can increase, which makes this a great treatment for high blood pressure. According to Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, cupping is often used to relieve pain in the neck and back, stiff muscles, anxiety, migraines, rheumatism, fatigue, and even cellulite. It is also stated that cupping treatments can have positive effects on the lungs—clearing congestion and helping to control a person’s asthma.

In the USA Today article, it is explained that cupping can increase motion, get rid of subtle tissue lesions, and can help with a speedy recovery.

There are even more benefits listed in this mindbodygreen article. They state that cupping can help relieve allergies, flu, colds, and skin conditions along with the benefits mentioned above. The article mentions that patients that used cupping treatments often saw positive results in these areas. Cupping can remove toxins from the body, and increase blood flow, lymph, and qi to different areas of the body.

Cupping is becoming more popular with celebrities and athletes showing off their cupping marks.


Moxibustion is another Chinese Medicine technique that has been practiced for thousands of years. In moxibustion, moxa, which is often made from mugwort, is burned close to the skin. Mugwort, while sounding like something out of Harry Potter, is a shrub-like plant from the sunflower family, according to The Herbal Resource. In Chinese Medicine, the leaves are the most common part to use.

The purpose of moxibustion is to strengthen the blood, stimulate flow of qi, and to help with health in general, as described in Acupuncture Today.

How does it work?

Like cupping there are two methods to moxibustion: direct and indirect.

In direct moxibustion, there are two sub-methods—scarring and non-scarring. Moxa is placed on top of an acupuncture point, and burned, and depending on which method you are receiving, scarring or non-scarring, will determine the rest of the treatment. In scarring, the moxa remains burning until it burns out completely, and while being held close or on the skin, could leave blisters and scarring behind.

Non-scarring moxibustion follows the same procedure but the moxa is extinguished before it can burn the skin. Patients receiving direct, non-scarring moxibustion will experience the same heating sensation throughout their muscles but should not feel any pain or scarring.

With indirect moxibustion, a cigar-looking moxa stick is used. The stick is held close to the areas being treated, it is held close to this area for several minutes and the skin will turn red. This is a more popular form of moxibustion due to the fact that there is a decreased risk of burns and pain.

What are some benefits?

During moxibustion treatments, a patient will feel warmth radiating through specific pathways. According to University of Minnesota, this is a positive result and could indicate the flow or arrival of qi.

This article mentions that moxibustion is also used for pain or arthritis, digestive problems, and can help with breech presentation in pregnancies. In the Acupuncture Today article, linked above, they also mention that 75% of women with breech babies had them turned into the normal position before childbirth after receiving moxibustion. According to Empirical Point Acupuncture, moxibustion is most commonly used to help treat cold stagnation.

Moxibustion is often used along with acupuncture which is believed to increase each other’s effectiveness.

Tui Na

Tui na literally means “pinch and pull” and is a therapeutic massage used in Chinese Medicine. But this massage is not meant to make you relaxed or be pleasurable, according to this University of Minnesota article, this type of massage is meant to focus on patterns of disharmony.

How does it work?

Tui na uses many of the same principles as acupuncture and often used for the same reasons. Chinese Medicine practices generally focuses on the qi of the body and tui na is no different. Both acupuncture and tui na are used to harmonize yin and yang but manipulating the qi.

Tui na can be used as treatment for people of all ages and often replaces acupuncture when treating children.

This therapeutic massage uses different hand and compression techniques along energy channels in the body. According to Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, acupressure techniques are are applied to help the flow of the qi. In acupressure, finger pressure is used rather than needles to hit certain acupuncture points.

What are some benefits?

Tui na can treat specific areas or help the overall qi flow of the body, but these treatments often help both of these at the same time.

According to Acupuncture Massage College, tui na offers many benefits, including relieving different disorders. These include insomnia, headaches, migraines, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, premenstrual syndrome, and emotional problems. Like other massages, tui na can help with sore muscles, back, stiff neck, and sciatica.

In the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine article linked above, they mention that tui na can help with acute or chronic pain in joints, muscles, and the skeletal system, and is very beneficial in reducing neck, shoulder, hip, back, leg, arm, and ankle pain.

Tui na may seem like a regular massage but it uses acupuncture techniques to offer both internal and external benefits.

Oriental Medicine offers many different benefits through different practices and techniques. Acupuncture is known to offer many benefits and becoming more and more popular. At Integrative Health we offer acupuncture and Oriental Medicine to our members. To learn more about our membership or to find out what Oriental Medicine practices we offer, contact us today.