Moxibustion is a variation of heat therapy that involves burning of mugwort (a small, spongy herb) to facilitate healing. This method has been used throughout Asia for thousands of years to increase circulation, stimulate the flow of qi, and maintain general health.
Moxibustion is very effective helping arthritis, muscle strains/sprains, frozen shoulder, tennis elbow, and other musculoskeletal/general health problems.
There are two types of moxibustion: direct and indirect.
Direct Moxibustion: a small, cone-shaped amount of moxa is placed on top of an acupuncture point and burned.
Indirect Moxibustion: this is currently the more popular form, as there is a much lower risk of pain or burning. In indirect moxibustion, the practitioner holds moxa close to the area being treated for several minutes until the area turns red. Another form of indirect moxibustion uses both acupuncture needles and moxa. A needle is inserted into an acupuncture point and retained. The tip of the needle is then wrapped in moxa and ignited, generating heat to the point and the surrounding area. After the desired effect is achieved, the moxa is extinguished and the needle(s) removed.
In traditional Chinese medicine, moxibustion is used on people who have a cold or stagnant condition. The burning of moxa is believed to expel cold and warm the meridians, which leads to smoother flow of blood and qi. In Western medicine, moxibustion has successfully been used to turn breech babies into a normal head-down position prior to childbirth. A landmark study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1998 found that up to 75% of women suffering from breech presentations before childbirth had fetuses that rotated to the normal position after receiving moxibustion at an acupuncture point.
Why do acupuncturists use mugwort? Why not use some other herb? Mugwort, also known as artemesia vulgaris or ‘ai ye’ in Chinese, has a long history of use in folk medicine. Research has shown that it acts as an emmenagogue; an agent that increases blood circulation to the pelvic area and uterus and stimulates menstruation. This could explain its use in treating breech births and menstrual cramps.
Are there any precautions I should be aware of? Although moxibustion has been safely used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, it is not for everyone. Because it is used specifically for patients suffering from cold or stagnant constitutions, it should not be used on anyone diagnosed with too much heat. Burning moxa also produces a great deal of smoke and a pungent odor. Patients with respiratory problems may request that their practitioner use smokeless moxa sticks as an alternative.
Cupping is an ancient technique that involves placing jars on the skin, suctioning out the air by creating a vacuum on the flesh. The underlying tissue is raised, creating a negative energy flow, which can counteract the current state of stagnation. Cupping affects the body up to four inches into the tissues, causing tissues to release toxins, activate the lymphatic system, clear colon blockages, helps activate and clear the veins, arteries and capillaries, clear stretch marks and improve varicose veins. It also often gets good results for patients with the flu, back pain, muscle pain, red itchy skin conditions, allergies, fevers, aches and pains.
Cupping therapy has been further developed as a means to open the 'Meridians' of the body. Meridians are the conduits in the body through which energy flows. There are five meridians on the back that, when opened, allows invigorating energy to travel the whole length of the body. It has been found that cupping is probably the best way of opening those meridians.
Patient might feel a tight sensation in the area of the cup along with a relaxing of aching muscles. Cups are generally left in place for 5-20 minutes and will cause the skin to temporarily turn red, blue or purple, depending on how severe the energetic blockages are. The skin discoloration is harmless and may last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks.
Muscles constantly extend and contract within a normal range during everyday activity. However, when muscles over-extend or over-contract, such as when lifting an excessive amount of weight, muscles cannot recover and become inflamed. When a muscle is inflamed, swollen or stiff due to fatigue, the space between the skin and muscle is compressed, resulting in constriction to the flow of lymphatic fluid. This compression also applies pressure to the pain receptors beneath the skin, which in turn communicates "discomfort signals" to the brain. This type of pain is known as myalgia (or muscular pain) and tape can be applied to the pain area as a single strip "I", or in the shapes of an "X" or "Y" depending on the shape and size of the targeted muscle(s). The basic principle of therapeutic taping for weakened muscles is to wrap the tape around the affected muscle(s). Start from where the muscle begins [ORIGIN], continue along the muscle and finish where the muscle ends [INSERTION]. This particular application process is typically used for supportive purposes. As the muscle fibers contract, taping supports the contraction by stimulating the skin and pulling the muscle back towards the point of origin.
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