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Traditional Chinese Medicine and Physio

April 14, 2020

The US swimming and gymnastics teams have attracted scores of attention this week at the Olympics due to many of them sporting large red dots on their bodies. Many media outlets have pointed out, these are due to cupping.

Cupping is one of the mainstay techniques in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) along with acupuncture, moxibustion, massage, herbs and gua sha. These are the basis by which TCM practitioners have treated people for thousands of years. Due to these benefits, which have stood the tests of time, physiotherapy has often delved into TCM to see if they can provide a scientific basis for their benefits and to improve them for their patients. Acupuncture techniques have been refined and altered to increased blood flow and tissue repair through a practice we now call dry needling. The moxibustion’s benefits can be derived from the heat it produces, a practice similar to physios putting hot packs on patients. The basic massage techniques have been focused onto specific anatomical structure and methods such as soft tissue techniques and deep tissue frictions. Cupping as seen at the Olympics is now used by many US physios.

Finally one of the newest techniques ‘borrowed’ from TCM is gua sha or what we term instrumented soft tissue mobilisation (IASTM). IASTM increased blood flow to an area by massaging the injured area with a metal instrument. The firmness on the instrument also helps to break up any adhesions in the area more effectively than with your hands.

If you have any questions on TCM techniques used by physios today. Please call our clinic on 01 441 0100 or email us at