Gua Sha and Cupping are natural, centuries old medical techniques. Cupping has become more known due to its use in professional sports people. Michael Phelps famously boasted post-treatment marks during the 2016 Olympics. Gua Sha is increasingly being utilised in beauty routines for the face.
Both techniques are used for their ability to reduce pain in both chronic, and sub-acute pain presentations. Other therapeutic benefits include reducing inflammation, oxidative and muscular stress as well as immunoprotective benefits.
Cupping and Gua Sha bring blood to the surface, just below the skin. Gua sha does this via friction, and cupping via suction. This process is called extravasation. Extravasation does not damage blood vessels, or break the skin. However it will cause coloured marks varying from light red to dark purple. It is important to note that while they appear and fade like, they are not conventional bruises, nor are they painful.
Gua Sha began in 475 BCE in ancient China . Where the act of scraping the skin cleared and dispersed diseases. It was used to treat pain (acute and chronic), nausea, coughing, limited range of motion, fever, and inflammation.
“Gua” translates to scrape, and “sha” to rash, this means after treatment can result in petechiae. Petechiae is the result of a breach in the tiny capillaries just under the skin. This is different from bruising and usually fades within 72-96hrs.
Over the years the tool progressed from using hemp rope and water, to willow branches, copper coins and buffalo horns. Today tools made from metal, wood, ceramic, pottery, or stone (e.g., jade and quartz) are used, or even a Chinese soup spoon as our Osteopath Teille is partial to using, just ask her about it!
It is a mild to firm, unidirectional pressure stroke using a blunt tool to stimulate microcirculation. It stretches the connective tissue and softens adhesions; this helps to improve blood and lymphatic circulation.
Originally used in folk medicine from 1550 BCE in ancient Chinese, Egyptian and Middle Eastern Cultures. Also in England in the 1830’s in hospitals to treat contagious diseases. The cups were originally made from animal horns, pottery or bamboo. They are now they are commonly made from glass or plastic.
The cupping technique uses heat or pump-suction to create a vacuum seal which placed on the skin. This breaks up adhesions that are blocking the flow of qi and nutrients to different parts of the body. Stimulating lymphatic and blood flow which aids in the removal toxins and facilitates healing.
The cups can be motionless, or with the aid of a lubricant (e.g. oil) you can glide the cup across the skin. Some people are intimidated by the circular marks it leaves behind, however these are painless and normally disappear within a week.
Our myotherapist Ricki-lee is a big fan of cupping, why not try it out at your next appointment with her?
Both Acupuncture and Dry Needling involve the insertion of a filiform stainless-steel needle through the skin to alleviate pain, but are they different and if so, how?
Let’s begin by having a brief look at the two modalities:
Originated in China about 6000 BCE. Based on the theory of meridians, Qi, Yin/Yang and 5 elements (fire, water, wind, earth, metal) and aims in restoring balance. The knowledge of health and disease in China developed purely from observation of living subjects because dissection was forbidden and the subject of anatomy did not exist
Origins are from western medicine based in scientific principles. It aims at improving function by releasing myofascial trigger points (tender points) Came about by using hypodermic needle (used to draw blood) to decrease pain, and came about by experiment of injecting saline into muscles
Needle placement follows the meridians of the body and will not necessarily be placed in the area of pain. There are 12 meridians with a connection to internal organs
Needle placement is in the region of pain, trigger points in muscle, tendon and fascia
Used in the management of a broad range of conditions, including pain, menstrual issues, infertility, gastric complaints and more.
Used to treat musculoskeletal conditions and dysfunction
Used in daily practice by TCM practitioners as a primary modality, commonly the only technique
Used as a supplementary tool in some treatments
Minimum 4-year bachelor’s degree with 100s hour supervised clinical experience
Usually a 48-72-hour course with minimal supervised clinical experience
Must be registered through a Chinese Medical Board and Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency.
No regulatory body needed – although usually completed as an adjunction therapy
Must complete mandatory continued professional development for registration
No required continued professional development
Professional indemnity insurance is compulsory
May not be covered by professional indemnity insurance
Now that you have a brief overview, let’s do a deep-dive into the history and philosophy of each approach to gain a better understanding of the difference between Acupuncture and Dry Needling.
Dry Needling (DN) is described as “the insertion of needles into tender point in the body without the injection of any substance to treat painful musculoskeletal disorders”(1) and was tied to the discovery of myofascial tender points and pain referral patterns.
It began in the late 1930’s with John Kellgren who was the first to publish that pain from muscles if often referred in a specific pattern to the individual muscle, and that pain could be relieved by injecting procaine into an acutely tender point which were often some distance from the site of pain outlasting the effects of anaesthetic(2).
Over the next few years, an interest in pain relief from needling grew with many people experimenting with tender points, but it wasn’t until 1942 that Janet Travell and David Simmons’s research that Myofascial Trigger Points became a common term. Myofascial Trigger Points are defined as an “hyperirritable spot in skeletal muscle that is associated with a palpable nodule in a taut band. The spot is tender when pressed and can give rise to characteristic referred pain, motor dysfunction and autonomic phenomena”(1).
Needling without injection of a substance was first mentioned by Ernest Brav and Henry Sigmond in 1941 who proclaimed that pain could be relieved by simple needling without injecting anything, however the first sentence of their paper references a James Churchill’s publication on acupuncture from 1821(3, 4). The term ‘Dry Needling’ was coined in 1947 by J D Paulett who also established the relationship of effective treatment, deep needling, tender points and a reflex spasm (fasciculation/muscle twitch) (5). This was built upon by Karel Lewit in 1979 who stated that acupuncture needles had the same therapeutic results with less pain, bleeding and bruising then hypodermic needles(1).
This is how DN that is known today came about, with the use of acupuncture needles and the insertion and manipulation of the needle that creates a fasciculation to help reduce pain in musculoskeletal complaints.
Acupuncture is a key component of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to help balance the flow of energy known as qi (chi) which flows through medians in your body. By inserting filiform needles through a person’s skin at specific points along these meridians, to various depths, acupuncture practitioners believe that your energy flow will re-balance(6). Other methods may be used to stimulate the acupuncture points, including acupressure, moxibustion, cupping, laser therapy, electro-stimulation and massage, in order to rebalance the flow of qi(7).
Acupuncture is generally held to have originated in China, with instruments dating back to 6000 BCE being interpreted as acupuncture treatment(8), however this is widely debated.
1600-1046 BCE the Shang Dynasty linked Chinese medicine to the beliefs of ancestors, who were capable of endangering or even destroying human life, therefore healing practices attempted to restore not only the living but also the dead. This belief gave way to magical, demonological or supernatural beliefs, that demons caused disease such as swellings, and the insertion of needles or stone lancets etc., could be to kill or expel them(9). Meridians were first mentioned in 198 BCE in writings found in Ma-Wang-Dui tomb(8), however they differ from the ones commonly seen in TCM today.
The Huangdi Neijing (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine) is an antediluvian text on health and disease with an organised system of diagnosis and treatment. It is thought to be written in approximately 2600 BC by Emperor Huangdi. It is presented in the form of questions by the Emperor and learned replies from his ministers and is likely to be an accumulation of traditions handed down over centuries presented in terms of the prevailing Taoist philosophy. By this time the concept of meridians in which the Qi (energy/lifeforce) was established the precise anatomical locations of acupuncture point developed later(8, 10).
During the Han Dynasty (202 BCE – 220 CE) Chinese medical traditions flourished as Chinese health care started to follow theories to categorise phenomena into a limited number of causes and effects. Natural laws, conceptualised in doctrines such as ‘Yin‐yang’ and ‘Five elements (fire, water, wind, earth, metal),’ were used to explain health and disease, and to devise preventive and therapeutic strategies(9). However, these theories were not commonly accepted or consistent.
The development of acupuncture and the accumulation in texts over the next centuries gradually made acupuncture one of the standard therapies used in China, alongside herbs, massage, diet and moxibustion (heat)(8). Bronze statues from the 15th century show the acupuncture points, and were used for teaching and examination purposes(8). During the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644 CE), The Great Compendium of Acupuncture and Moxibustion was published, which forms the basis of modern acupuncture, in which clear descriptions of the full set (365 points) that represent meridian apertures in which Qi could be accessed via a needle. These points are still points used in modern acupuncture.
Several of our team practice Dry Needling for musculoskeletal complaints, including Teille, Amy, and Yahana. If you are interested in learning more about the various needling approaches, and which style might be best for you see Dr. Teille Wickstein. She is our go-to practitioner for all things needling related! You can read more about her below.
Dr Teille Wickstein is a dual-qualified Osteopath and Acupuncturist. She first obtained a degree in Chinese Medicine/Acupuncture, before undertaking a further 5 years of University training to become an Osteopath. Teille (pronounced “Teal”) is passionate about improving health and wellbeing, and truly believes in the holistic approach of treating the body as one unit.
Teille has an interest in treating both acute and chronic conditions through osteopathic treatment .
Teille uses a variety of different treatment techniques, from myofascial release to manipulation.
She aims to provide her patients with the knowledge required to not only treat their pain, but to understand it and subsequently prevent it using postural advice, ergonomic advice and strengthening techniques.
Teille is available for consultations from Tuesday – Saturday. She offers late afternoon and evening appointments.
For more information or to make an appointment call (02) 4655 5588 or click here to book an appointment now.
1. Legge D. A History of Dry Needling. Journal of Musculoskeletal Pain. 2014;22.
2. Kellgren JH. Referred Pains from Muscle. Br Med J. 1938;1(4023):325-7.
3. Lu DP, Lu GP. An Historical Review and Perspective on the Impact of Acupuncture on U.S. Medicine and Society. Med Acupunct. 2013;25(5):311-6.
4. Brav EA, Sigmond H. Low Back Pain and the Needle. The Military Surgeon. 1942;90(5):545-9.
5. Paulett JD. Low Back Pain. The Lancet. 1947;250(6469):272-6.
6. Clinic M. Acupuncture: Mayo Clinic; 2017 [updated March 2020. Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/acupuncture/about/pac-20392763.
In the last few years, fasting has been gaining popularity across the world as a way of improving human health. Did you know that fasting has been around for centuries and centuries? Humans have been doing it since time began and animals do it too. So let’s see what all the fuss is about…
What is fasting?
Fasting is a total or partial abstinence from food. In simple terms this means that for a period of time a person will not eat any, or certain types, of food and drink. It is carried out across the world for many different reasons including as part of religious ceremonies or rituals, as well as for health reasons.
There are many different types of fasting. We’ve broken down a few of the more popular ones below:
Water fasting — definitely one for the purists. This type of fast involves drinking nothing but water for a set period of time with the aim of purifying the body and allowing our much-overused digestive systems a well-deserved break. This is apparently one of the hardest types of fasts to carry out.
Juice fasting — this type of fast involves only drinking fruit or vegetable juices for a set period of time. Somewhat easier than the water fast due to all of the juicy goodness you are getting from the fruits and vegetables.
Intermittent fasting — this appears to be the craze at the moment! This type involves not eating at certain times or days in the week and having an unrestricted diet for the remainder of the time. There are a few different types. These include:
Alternate day — eating every other day
5:2 — eating a normal diet for 5 days of the week and having a drastically reduced caloric intake on the remaining two days (the two days are not allowed to be consecutive days)
Time-restricted — eating only within a set time period, i.e. between 7am — 3pm with nothing but water outside of these times.
It is with intermittent fasting where most of the scientific research has been carried out and health benefits have been widely documented.
So, the big question is… Why fast? Below are some of the documented health benefits science has detected to date:
Weight loss: It’s a great way of limiting calorie intake without having to be excessive. Fasting helps in the production of certain hormones which help to boost your metabolism. It has been seen to help reduce body fat whilst preserving muscle tissue.
Reduces chronic inflammation: Studies have shown people who fast intermittently have reduced levels of inflammatory markers in the blood after one month. This could be great for a whole host of inflammatory conditions out there including rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
Improves heart health: Current research shows benefits on the cardiovascular system including lowered blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Increases levels of Growth Hormone (GH: People who fast intermittently have been shown to have increased levels of GH after their fasting period. This hormone is important in growth, muscle strength, metabolism and aiding weight loss.
Controls blood sugar: Promising for our type 2 diabetics out there, although larger studies are needed for this area of research as evidence is a bit mixed at the moment. Watch this space!
There are also a whole host of other benefits starting to emerge from animal studies which could be bright for our human future when more research is carried out. These areas include benefits seen in brain function, delayed aging and prevention of cancer. This is exciting stuff!
We hope this has been a helpful insight. If you are considering doing a fast yourself or would like more information, please get in touch with us on 4655 5588 and we’ll be able to point you in the right direction. It is always safest to consult a medical professional before attempting any type of fast yourself as there are certain conditions with which fasting is not allowed. Here’s to a healthier life 🙂
There is no escaping the pressures of modern life! You may be familiar with common stressors experienced by the majority of people, such as financial strain, relationships, pressures at work or school, toxins, diets high in processed foods, and constant Wi-Fi and screen exposure. The main problem is that these assaults to your system are constant. Extended periods of stress can result in a loss of the important mineral, magnesium, at the time your body needs it most. Ensuring you have good magnesium levels helps make you a warrior during stressful times.
Are You Low in Magnesium?
Fatigue, muscle cramps, headaches and difficulty sleeping are common signs of magnesium deficiency in both adults and children. Pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS) and mood disorders including anxiety, depression, and constant stress are all associated with poor body stores of magnesium. Talk to your Practitioner today about whether you have an increased need for magnesium.
Running on Empty – What Causes Low Magnesium?
There are many different factors that contribute to magnesium deficiency. These include:
Inadequate intake from foods.
Continual stress. As increased levels of stress hormones diminish precious magnesium stores, this can lead to a vicious cycle of magnesium depletion, making it even harder to cope.
Caffeine, alcohol and certain medications. These increase the loss of magnesium through urination
The Many Benefits of Magnesium
Being the fourth most abundant mineral in the body, magnesium plays many roles in supporting your health. It helps dampen the effects of stress hormones to promote calming sleep, as well as relaxing muscles and reducing cramping. Magnesium protects your brain from memory loss, improves mood, concentration and learning, and lowers anxiety helping keep you stay calm during stressful times. However, that’s not all this mighty mineral helps with! Magnesium also improves blood sugar control, which can positively impact weight, reduce sugar cravings and support energy levels.
Magnesium Fuels Your Energy
When you become stressed, it affects you right down to your core, even causing damage at the cellular level by allowing energy molecules to leak from the cell. These energy molecules are needed for every function in the body; without energy your body’s ability to cope with stress is hindered, resulting in fatigue and other symptoms. But thanks to your cells’ instinctive ability to adapt to perceived stressors, the body uses magnesium to boost energy production, supporting good health and increasing your energy levels.
Daily Protection Against Stress
Utilise the following tips to shield your mind and body from stress and conserve your magnesium: Reduce caffeine to a maximum of 1 cup per day. Increase your consumption of magnesium rich foods e.g. spinach, dark chocolate, avocado, almonds, pumpkin seeds and black beans. Minimise your intake of high sugar and processed foods low in nutrients. Get a good night’s sleep. This will assist your body in repairing tissues and reducing inflammation caused by stress. To improve sleep quality, ensure your bedroom is cool, dark and quiet; and unplug from electronic devices (e.g. mobile phones, tablets, computer, and TV) 1-2 hours prior to bedtime. Exercise regularly to reduce the negative effects of emotional and physical stressors on health.
Choosing the Right Type of Ammunition
We can help recommend an appropriate magnesium for you if stress is weighing you down. Look out for magnesium bisglycinate in particular. This type of magnesium is superior to many other forms as it is well absorbed, gentle on the digestive tract and provides a calming effect. A necessity for 21st century living, magnesium will improve your resilience to the stressors of modern life. So talk to us today on how you can reduce stress using Magnesium!
Content reproduced with permission from Metagenics, 2019.
Pain has been an ongoing topic for research and discussion for a long time. Nearly everyone feels it (I say ‘nearly’ because there is actually a very small minority of people with a special condition that does not allow them to feel pain), and it varies in character and severity depending on what part of the body is implicated. And for the most part, none of us like being in pain. When we feel pain, normally the first thing we do is to look for a way out of it (or as some of you like to, ignore it – tut tut!). It’s a bit of a minefield knowing where to go for good pain relief. Some of us like a quick fix, others are more interested in fixing the problem long term by putting the hours in to do the rehab. Luckily for you, we are here to help with both stages!
When it comes to the body, we
usually feel pain because our body is sending us a signal letting us know
something is not quite right. That might be down to a simple muscle imbalance
or joint restriction, which is leading us to walk or run differently. Or it
might be down to something more serious like a tear of a muscle or tendon, changes
in the nervous system or a problem with an organ deep inside the body – the
list of causes is long and complex.
Regardless of the cause, when in
pain it’s human nature to want to know how to get rid of it. Some of you turn
to the experts (i.e. like your local Osteo/Myo/TCM practitioners, and other professionals like
doctors), and some prefer to self-diagnose using www.DrInternet.com
(how’s that been working out for you?!).
Some of the most common and
well-known forms of pain relief include manual therapy, use of temperature, medications,
supplementation and diet – you’ll find a brief overview of each below:
We as humans have been using our
hands to treat the body for a very, very, very long time! If you walk into a
clinic in pain, be it you have a swollen ankle or the inability to lift your
arm above your head, your practitioner will get to work on you using a whole
host of techniques (after they have carefully and correctly diagnosed you of
course!). Soft tissue massage and myofascial release techniques are widely used
in the management of musculoskeletal pain and evidence suggests you aren’t
wasting your time by getting the help of your local therapist. Your practitioner
may also utilise other techniques, including joint mobilisation and
manipulation, to correct your problem and to help get your pain lowered and
under control. Usually you will also be given some form of flexibility or
strengthening exercises to perform between treatment sessions to back up what
happens in the treatment room.
Heat and cold therapy
you’ve hurt yourself in the past, there is a good chance you’ve tried some form
of treatment relating to temperature to help relieve the pain. Cold therapy can
help to reduce pain, blood flow, swelling, muscle spasm, and inflammation. Heat
therapy can help to relieve pain, increase blood flow, and tissue elasticity.
It’s worth getting advice for the best approach for your problem.
There are countless different
medications out there that can help with pain relief – these are called
analgesics. Without getting too complicated, they can generally be split into
Non-opioid and Opioid analgesics. Non-opioid analgesics include your well known
and easily accessible medications such as aspirin, paracetamol, and
anti-inflammatories (such as Ibuprofen) – these are generally good for the
control of musculoskeletal pain. Opioid analgesics are there for cases of more
severe pain, and include codeine, tramadol and morphine (you won’t be able to
get these ones over-the-counter though!). Remember it’s always safest to
consult a medical professional before using any form of medication.
Supplementation & Diet
There is no shortage of nutritional
supplements available to assist you in the non-pharmacological management of pain
also. From anti-inflammatory herbs like Curcumin (derived from Turmeric), Boswellia
and Ginger to Fish Oil and Glucosamine and Chondroitin. Similarly, diets high
in Berries, Fatty fish like Salmon or Sardines, Green Tea, Avocadoes and Broccoli
can assist with reducing inflammation. In conjunction with the avoidance of
sugar and highly processed/refined foods, alcohol and trans fats.
If you are injured or in pain or would just like to know more about pain and the many ways to manage it we recommend you to book a consultation with one of our practitioners today so they can talk through your problem, assess you thoroughly, and then advise the best course of action for you.
Our aim is to help get you out of
pain and moving better again! Say ‘au revoir’ to pain! 🙂
Roadworks during peak hour. Screaming kids on flights (someone else’s, or worse, your own). Hairdressers who don’t listen. The neighbors’ house alarm that goes off when they are on holiday. All of the above are certified pains in the neck, and unfortunately, little research has been done into how best to prevent their occurrence. Even worse than these figurative dilemmas however is actual neck pain, a condition which a large percentage of the Australian population experience on a regular basis.
So much of the movement necessary for daily life, whether driving, talking or working, depends upon having good mobility in the neck. But if you are one of the many people who suffer from neck pain, even the simplest actions are accompanied by stiffness, discomfort and prolonged headaches.
What causes neck pain?
Neck pain is caused by a range of factors, all of which affect the vertebrae, cartilage and ligaments which support the head.
Poor posture, typically linked to hunching over a computer or smartphone screen, is responsible for the vast proportion of neck complaints. Sitting, slouching or slumping at a desk for an extended period puts pressure on ligaments and muscles, as does reading in bed or sleeping on your stomach.
If you have ever experienced pain when turning your head to the side, it’s possible that you have been suffering from a condition called ‘wry neck’. Brought on by sleeping in an awkward position, sudden jerking of the head or carrying heavy, unbalanced loads, this complaint is responsible for causing temporary, acute pain and stiffness in the neck. A more serious version of this condition is whiplash, where the jerking of the head strains the soft tissues of the neck. While whiplash is commonly associated with car accidents, it is an injury that can also be sustained through playing contact sports.
The final major contributor to neck pain is a degenerative disease like arthritis. Like all joints in your body, the cartilage cushioning your vertebrae wears down with age, and the result contributes to the condition osteoarthritis. When the firm cushion between two bones deteriorates, affected individuals experience pain, stiffness and muscle weakness which make even gentle movements difficult.
What can you do to help neck pain?
While there are no foolproof solutions to curing the pain in your neck, there is a lot you can do to prevent problems arising from your daily routine. Think about your posture when sitting or standing, and make sure your desk is designed to help you sit comfortably. Regular exercise will improve muscle tone and posture, while also helping to work against the muscle-tightening effects of stress.
If you have sustained an acute neck injury, it may be time to consult a qualified health professional for a course of soft tissue massage, mobilisation or manipulation. Taping problem spots can help support your posture, while a specific program of stretching and strengthening can promote greater stability in the neck muscles.
Made up of seven small vertebrae, the neck nonetheless plays a crucial role in your daily activities. By looking after the muscles and ligaments in your neck you will help keep pain at bay, making you better equipped to deal with the roadworks, screaming kids, bad hairdressers and neighbours’ alarms when they inevitably come your way.