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Ancient Chinese Medicine and Sports Injury Techniques

Ancient Chinese Medicine and Sports Injury Techniques

Ancient Chinese medicine has a wide range of medicinal practices that share common ideas, developed in China over 2000 years ago. Their uses mainly focused on natural ways to heal the body, unlike western medicine, which tends to focus on the scientific methods of reducing pain. Chinese medicine is based on balance and energy known as Qi (Pronounced /Chee/) and focuses on how to maintain the flow of this.

Despite Chinese medicine focusing on controlling energy, which is seen as a pseudoscience, some of its practices, especially those used in pain relief and sports massage, have been known to have astounding results. So, what are some Chinese massage techniques used for sports therapy?  


Cupping therapy originates from ancient Chinese medicine as an alternative form of medicine. It consists of the therapist placing special cups on the skin, creating a suction between the skin and cup. There are many reasons why people choose to get cupping therapy which includes reducing pain, improving blood flow, inflammation, relaxation and deep tissue purposes.

Cupping therapy is a popular trend seen on celebrities and all over social media; however, it’s been around for 1000’s of years and dates to as far as the ancient Egyptians.


There are two different methods for cupping therapy; these are:

  • Dry
  • Wet

Both methods consist of the therapist placing a flammable substance in the cup and then sets it on fire. As the fire goes out, the therapist puts the cup upside down on the skin.

The air inside begins to cool, and a vacuum is created. The causes the skin inside the cup to be sucked up and begins to redden, causing your blood vessels to expand. The cup is usually left in place for up to 3 minutes.

There is a more modern version of cupping which uses a pump to create the vacuum instead of fire. Occasionally therapists use silicone cups, which can be moved around the skin for a massage-like effect.

Wet cupping first uses a mild suction, leaving the cup on for around 3 minutes. Then the therapist uses a scalpel to make small painless incisions on the skin before places the cups back on. This allows for the excretion of small quantities of blood that hold toxins such a heavy metal’s, which are bad for the body.  

Your first session usually uses around 3-5 cups, and it is rarely ever to have more than 7, stated by the British cupping society.

After the treatment, the therapist usually uses an antibiotic ointment and bandage to prevent infection, bruises usually occur but will look normal after around ten days.

A further alternative is “needle cupping,” during which the therapist first inserts acupuncture needles and then places cups over them.

Further uses of cupping therapy are seen for the treatment of:

  • Blood disorders such as anaemia and hemophilia
  • Rheumatic diseases such as arthritis and fibromyalgia
  • Fertility and gynaecological disorders
  • Skin problems such as eczema and acne
  • High blood pressure
  • Migraines
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Bronchial congestion caused by allergies and asthma
  • Varicose veins

Does cupping have side effects?

Cupping has limited side effects. However, you may experience some light-headedness or dizziness during your treatment. Additionally, cupping can cause sweating or nausea. 

Scraping (Gua Sha)

Gua sha is a natural, alternative treatment that involves scraping the skin with a massage tool to enhance circulation. This is another ancient Chinese medicine healing technique which offers a unique approach to improving health and addressing issues such as chronic pain.

In gua sha, a technician uses the tool to scrape the skin with short or long strokes to help stimulate microcirculation of the soft tissue, which increases blood circulation. The device used is a smooth-edged instrument referred to as a gua massage tool. The therapist firstly applies massage oil to your skin and then uses the tool to scrape your skin in a downward motion repeatedly. The scraping is thought to remove inflammation, which is the underlying cause of several conditions associated with chronic pain.

Gua sha is commonly performed on areas such as the back, buttocks, neck, arms, and legs. There is also a gentle version used on the face as a facial technique. Your technician uses mild pressure and progressively increases the intensity to determine how much force you can handle.

What are the benefits of gua sha?

Gua sha may reduce inflammation, so it is often used to treat ailments that cause chronic pain, such as arthritis and fibromyalgia, as well as those that trigger muscle and joint pain.

Gua sha helps promote circulation in the muscles and other deep tissues. It is used for injuries, muscle spasms, mobility, and long-standing chronic tension that is causing either local pain or organ dysfunction. Comparable to foam rolling, it can enhance flexibility and joint mobility. Still, gua sha is more targeted and can achieve both smaller and larger joints that are not as readily accessible in a different way.

Gua sha can also reduce issues such as:

  • Neck pain
  • Hepatitis B
  • Migraine headaches
  • Breast engorgement
  • Tourette syndrome
  • Perimenopausal syndrome

Ancient Chinese medicine neck pain relief

Does gua sha have side effects?

Gua sha is a natural healing remedy and is considered safe. The sessions should not be painful; However, the scraping technique can cause redness and bruising of the skin. This is caused by the small blood vessels known as capillaries bursting from the procedure. Bruising typically goes within a couple of days.

Some people have stated that they have experienced temporary indentation of their skin after a gua sha treatment.

The therapist must ensure they properly disinfect their tools to avoid the risk of transferring blood-borne illnesses. This technique should also be avoided if you have had any surgery in the last six weeks. Additionally, those who are taking blood thinners or have a history of blood clots should stray away from this treatment.


Another ancient Chinese medicine method used to help sports injury is Acupuncture. Acupuncture is a natural-based medicine approach originating from ancient China. It is used to treat a variety of conditions by triggering specific parts of the skin with needles. Acupuncture is a minimally invasive technique to stimulate areas of the skin surface which are abundant in nerves. This is used to influence tissues, gland, organs, and various functions of the body.”

The pressure placed upon the needle causes small injuries at the insertion site; however, it should cause little to no discomfort. The damage sends a signal to allow the body to respond by stimulating the immune system that promotes circulation to the specific area causing wound healing and pain adjustment.

What does acupuncture do?

Acupuncture helps a variety of problems such as chronic headaches or sinus pressure. Furthermore, it alerts the immune system to release neurochemicals which can help to repair sports injuries and promote relaxations.

Other illnesses it can help are:

  • Allergies
  • Anxiety and Depression
  • Arthritis
  • hypertension
  • Insomnia
  • menstrual cramps and PMS
  • Migraines
  • Morning sickness
  • Sprains
  • Strokes

While there is no scientific evidence that shows that acupuncture is a miracle cure, there is supporting evidence to suggest that it is a worth-while treatment if you find that other treatments are not helping. There is a reason after 2,000 years it’s still being used, and as our knowledge progresses, it is still supported today.

Side effects of acupuncture:

It is rare to experience side effects; however, some people can experience mild, short term symptoms such as:

  • Pain at the insertion site.
  • Bleeding or bruising at the insertion site.
  • Drowsiness.
  • Feeling sick.
  • Feeling dizzy or faint.
  • Worsening of pre-existing symptoms.

If you are looking for any treatments stated in this article, it’s essential to contact a certified practitioner who is fully insured and qualified. Using the Fitbook search tool can help you find a fully vetted and qualified health and fitness professional. 

If you are unsure whether it’s safe for you to take part in these procedures, it’s always best to contact your doctor/GP. 

By Ella Orrock

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