Hello all,

Dr. Sean here.  I am going to be moving all this great material to my Blogger site, it is just easier to post and manage.  I have a link below to the website thenaturalbodyworks.com so that you can check it out.  There is a tab for the blog itself.  Or you can see the blog directly at the blogger link.

I would LOVE to see you there, please go and sign up for the updates!

I will be using the blog as a type of script for my upcoming Youtube videos, so go there and sign in and subscribe too!

Hope you are all doing well!!!


Dr. Sean





Spring is a great time to start a detox, use some of these tried and true tricks.


People come in asking about cleanses. When it comes to the liver I always use this picture (the whole scene really) as a good example of how the liver can work.
In this scene Lucy and Ethel get a job boxing chocolates… (think of them as the liver itself, sorting and packaging toxins and nutrients correctly to be either used, stored or excreted…) In the process they become overwhelmed by the amount of chocolates on the conveyor belt. This results in a hilarious thought process on Lucy and Ethel’s part in that they put them in their pockets, down their shirts and in their mouths to keep them from going off the conveyor… (think of this as the liver, if overwhelmed, will store the toxins in fat, or keep it in circulation where it can irritate the other tissues. Now, keep in mind the liver is an amazing machine that…

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So, as many of you that know me know, I do LOTS of other projects.  From rebuilding a Volkswagen to making herbal teas.  Well, here is the latest one.  I am making a balm/salve for muscles and joints.

The idea is to make something stronger and better than Tiger Balm and others like it.  I have been tinkering with it for a while.  Here is the first steps.  I had to make the base…

The most common base has either bees wax or petroleum.  I didn’t want to use any animal products or petroleum (basically a by product of crude oil)… bleech!

I did some research and really tried many different things including almond oil, coconut oil, vegetable glycerin, different alcohols, and even trying to get some bees wax.  I felt badly that I was taking from bees needlessly and so looked all over for alternatives.

Here is what I found.  A really good wax called Candelila (which comes from a shrub) can be used in place of petroleum.  It is a very hard wax though and has to be cut with something to give it a better feel and smoother texture.  Also has to be somewhat easy to absorb into the skin without being irritating in any way.   I got a hold of some Shea Butter which has great properties, is very stable and quite nice for and on the skin.

I had to experiment on what to do in regards to the amounts of each in the formula.  I was looking for a similar texture to Tiger Balm or Siddhalepa (one I found in Sri Lanka).

Here was the process:   I had to melt the candelila wax in a double boiler as to not burn the wax.  I used a hot plate and an old pot I had for herb preparations I made.

The first picture of the table has all the ingredients I was working with.  (I will post them in detail later) .  I have the oil/wax mixture in the small Plexiglas ramekins I got at the local ‘chef’ store.  I just had to keep mindful of which one was which.  Once they all melted together I set them aside to cool and set.  I had not added any of the active ingredients yet.

As I was able to melt everything together I had to keep really good notes.  I was able to find a great ratio of wax to Shea Butter and have it all set for the next step.  Adding the chemicals and oils for the therapeutic effect.

So I had to come up with the labeling.  What a chore that was.  I was trying to get too much information on the little round 1.5″ labels.  I ended up using Microsoft’s Paint application and was able to design the logo (The Blue Faced Bear) and the vital information.   I found a printer that would get me the labels rather cheaply.  I will post them in the next installment.  But here is the new logo as well as a sample label.


I will be altering some of the info and also putting in a piece of paper explaining more about the product.   Later I will be adding a couple different formulas to the mix.  The end plan is to have three.

I will make an initial batch of about 50 and give them away for people to try and to rate.

So there you go.

Another project.  Catch me for more later this month.


Dr. Sean


Above is an X-ray of a pretty much normal pelvis.  There are some basic misalignment issues and some arthritic changes there but let’s use it as our study example.

The main thing I want to focus on is the sacro iliac joint.  That is the connector of your pelvic bones to the base of the spine, the sacrum.  The sacrum is a pizza-piece shaped bone, pointing down.  At the bottom of the sacrum is the tail bone, called the coccyx.

Pelvic arch

I  also drew a diagram of a very basic pelvis to see how it kinda fits together.  The diagram above is that of an arch, like in a doorway made of stone.  Notice how similar the structure is to the pelvis and lower body.  The sides of the doorway are like the legs, the key stone at the top is like the sacrum.

When a misalignment occurs, and they can occur for many reasons, such as; muscle fatigue, injury (slow or fast like a fall or sitting in a position for a long time) or even emotional stress.   The entire orientation of each part changes to try and maintain balance in the system.  This causes compensations such as muscles tightening to help or splint the area, leg length changes to accommodate the shift in the direction of the pelvis or sacrum, or re-alignment of the entire spine up to the head to adapt to the problem.

Generally, when the sacrum becomes mis-aligned the pelvis rotates and shifts, or there may be a failure of the joint and you will have lots of pain.  This pain causes spasm of some muscles and total loss of tone in others.  This can make it hard or even impossible to get out of a chair or your car.

The sacrum meets the pelvis bones at the sacro-iliac joint.  You can feel the bones of the ilium (top part of the pelvis) just below your belt line, on the back about 2″ from the center of the spine (that would be at about the sacrum).  When I am confirming the alignment of the pelvis as related to leg length, that is what I use.  One of the sides is likely to be tender to pressure.

OK, so what.

This is one of the main contributors of severe back pain.  It can mimic and even confuse the most experienced practitioner (Medical Doctor, Physical Therapist, or Massage therapist) into thinking it is a disc injury.  However, once you find this kind of mis-alignment and get it to move, the pain and spasm go away.  This would not happen with a disc.  (usually)…  The sacro-iliac joint is fibrous, it is tough, in some books it is called immovable.  But I assure you it moves!  It can shift and slide out of place, even a millimeter  can cause severe pain.  It tends to move slowly, and responds better to slower adjustments with pelvic blocks.

On the right side of the arch diagram you can see where there is an arrow pointing to the pelvic misalignment. That is where the pain most likely would be felt.  That space can be swollen or compressed.  The muscles up the back and around the rump will spasm to try and splint it in place.  It really has no idea if it is broken or not, just knows it is not where it should be and will try and stabilize it as best it can.

Typical symptoms of this kind of alignment problem is pain with movement, especially getting out of bed, changing positions in bed, getting out of a car, or in one, and a feel like it just may ‘give out’ on you with certain movements.  Generally it feels like a ‘tooth ache’ feel at the sacroiliac joint or sometimes like an ice pick is stuck between the bones.  This can give you shooting sharp pain.  Usually it does not go down the leg like in sciatica.  But it will be really focal and sharp.  The muscles around it, the rump, front of thigh, and even muscles on the side of the hip can tighten.  Also my favorite muscle the Psoas can spasm, giving you that bent over Quasimodo look.

So, how does it happen?  Well, commonly it is because of a lifting issue a couple days before the pain showed up.  It can be from sitting in an odd position like when you lie on the couch and watch a movie marathon or sat in a car for a long time on a road trip.  Occasionally it is from stepping off a curve wrong or a slip and fall.  Other ways it occurs, especially if the main part is the sacrum, could be from some congenital (an anomaly you were born with) malformation.  In the furthest esoteric reasons, it could be from emotional instability related to foundation issues like home, career, stability,  family etc…

That is why it is important to look at all of the areas of possible cause; physical, chemical, and emotional before starting to go into some treatment plan.  Although it is difficult to pin down an emotional relationship, it is always a good idea to use it as an object of contemplation when going after a cause.  Many times there are insights into the reasons which really do speed up the healing and normalizing process.

The therapies I use are pelvic blocking, heat, muscle stimulation and other chiropractic adjustments and realignment techniques.  I also prescribe and teach stretching and other self care tricks of the trade to keep you ‘in the saddle’ as it were.

I had this very misalignment over 30 years ago when I was taking Japanese Jujitsu.  I had done a terrible barrel roll fall and really messed up my back.  The instructors there told me to do some exercises which, unfortunately made it worse.   I went to my doctor (Medical doctor) and immediately they referred me for x-rays and within a week I was being scheduled for back surgery.  Terrified, but in pain,  I purposefully missed the appointment for the surgery and figured I would just be a cripple.  Someone told me to go to a chiropractor.  My father advised me not to because they were ‘quacks’ and would probably paralyze me.  Well, once I became so disabled I could not manage stairs or put a pair of underwear on without sitting on the floor, I went to the chiropractor.  I am not going to say there was any miracle, the treatment was painful at first and I was afraid.  I followed the recommendations at the time, (daily for like ten days, then three times a week for a couple months, then twice a week, eventually getting down to about once a month.)  I don’t use such schedules with my patients now (oh, did I mention I BECAME A CHIROPRACTOR!?)  I have found that with as little as four or five visits we can get the same result as 15 visits too close together.    It was the style at the time to have such an extensive treatment schedule, largely because my insurance paid.  LOL…

Now I work on getting people out of pain, then getting them stable and show them how to care for it themselves so that they do not have to come in as often.  Since I started practice I have had to send about five patients to surgery, but that is by far the exception to the rule with proper diagnosis and care.

Now, I use acupuncture, dry needling, chiropractic alignments, and stretching to help it get back in place and stay there.  Most patients will need follow up care, depending on how well we did initially and how they care for their backs and what kind of activities they want to stick with.  As for me, once I stabilized and strengthened I was able to do anything, including be an EMT in a major metro area, scuba dive all over the world, hike, bike, take more martial arts, and do pretty much what ever I wanted.  I know that would have not been possible if I got surgery.  Many surgeries fail, causing lasting problems and disability.  The surgery can even kill you.  I did not want to take that chance, and I was fine.

This kind of treatment is not for everyone, sometimes surgery IS the best choice.  Sometimes all it takes is time and a little stretching, sometimes a swim will help reset it.  Many times, a change in life situations can make a big difference.   For me, I was really worried about what I wanted to do with my life at the time.  I was getting student loans up the wazoo and had no plan.  It was not for almost ten years I decided to become a chiropractor, it took another ten to do acupuncture training.

If you find yourself in this predicament, go see a reasonable chiropractor.  Preferably one that does not get you on too much of a schedule.  Contact me if you want more information.   See my website http://www.thenaturalbodyworks.com or check out my YouTube Channel… thenaturalbodyworks.  I can also be reached at my office by phone or text.  720- 325 then 9886 (don’t want a bunch of bots calling me)  I can advise you and help you where I can.

Hope this helped.
Dr. Sean H. Thompson, B.Sc., D.C., CCAP etc…

Acupuncture for a sprained ankle

To review, a sprain is when a ligament (those cartilage bands that hold each bone to another) becomes injured.  Well, technically torn…  There are different grades of tear or sprain.  From very mild to a complete ‘avulsion’ when it has been completely torn in two.

A tendon, is the attachment of the muscle to the bone, and many times those are injured as well.  It is a reflex of the area that is injured to tighten to naturally splint the area.  This is why you would have tightness of the shin and calf muscles when you sprain an ankle.

Most ankle sprains are what are called inversion sprains, they are when you roll an ankle on a hole or rock or something.  This can tear a set of ligaments on the outside of the ankle called the deltoid ligaments or the talo-calcaneal or talo-navicular ligaments.  Of course, there are many ways to injure the ankle and many structures that can become damaged, but these are the most common that I have seen.

To make sure it is not a fracture is also very useful.  The gold standard of course is an x-ray of the ankle, but palpation (feeling) and mobilization (by a professional, skilled practitioner) is useful.   Another way to do this is with a tuning fork, which I did a video on my channel ‘Thenaturalbodyworks’ on YouTube.

RICE and self-care: The sprain tears the ligament, this causes bleeding because you have also torn blood vessels.  That is where that wonderful bruise under your ankle bone is from.  Also in the area is a whole system of inflammation which would include; warming up or heat, redness and bruising, pain and soreness, and swelling.  All of this is normal for an injury and it is trying to help you.  The body is trying to stabilize the area as well as increase action of the white blood cells and repair cells.  The pain is to keep you from injuring it again.  The idea is to rest and let it heal.  This is the crux of the typical treatment of ‘R.I.C.E’ or Rest, Ice packs which help with pain and out of control swelling that can further damage tissues, Compression, to keep it from swelling more and to support the ankle if you have to move at all, and Elevation to reduce throbbing and pooling of blood in the lower area.

Contrast bath: I only have people use ice for the first couple days maximum.  Once the bruising starts to show and change color is the time to bring in some intermittent heat.  This all of course depends on what it looks like.  I have patients use ice for ten minutes, nothing for ten minutes then some mild heat for ten… then repeat.  It is called contrast and it gets the fluids and blood to wash out quicker.

Acupuncture: As for acupuncture it can and should be used on acute (immediate injuries, that are less than a few days old) to sub-acute (from a few days to a couple weeks) then for chronic injuries, those that have lasted over a couple weeks.  Each part is unique and take different care programs which I will not go into here.   The points used are general on the meridians that cross the ankle, the liver, bladder, kidney, spleen, gallbladder and stomach.  WOW so many!  But knowing which ligament is sprained and which points to use is essential and what an experienced acupuncture practitioner would use.

Electrical Acupuncture uses small needles to be placed in specific areas to enhance the healing capabilities and actions of the body.  There are also (as shown in the picture) electrical therapy that can speed up the process even more.    Electrical acupuncture can help with swelling, congestion in the area, muscle spasm and pain.    I prefer to use it rather than take all kinds of over the counter medications because the medications go all over the body, when we really want the action in the ankle.

Treatment could take from 20 to 40 minutes depending on what else is going on.  Home care as above is essential.  For acupuncture, I have patients come in daily for three days then every other day for a week or two.  Then we go to rehabilitating the ankle.

Rehabilitation is a part of the total healing of the ankle and begins with simple movement in the pain free ranges.  Doing the alphabet in the air with the big toe as a pointer is useful.  It helps regain some range of motion, reduce swelling and scar tissue buildup and begins to loosen the muscles.  Later, weight bearing and special exercises like walking on the tip toes or heels or outer edge of the ankle is helpful and will strengthen the ankle again and prevent more injuries. Finally I do and suggest manipulations of the ankle, knee, hip and lower back to make sure it is all aligned properly and has a good range of motion that will allow you to adapt better and completely heal without weakness of the ankles or other areas which will predispose to other injuries.

Frequently these injuries become very stubbornly chronic and some have to wear a brace to help the weakened muscles, tendons and ligaments.  They should be getting routine adjustments and follow up treatments to help them adapt and understand the new limitation.  No sprain is ever 100% healed, there will be scar tissue no matter what you do, and the idea is to reduce it as much as possible and strengthen and build adaptability in the rest of the body.

Finally we have to also look at the emotional component of an injury if we hope to be holistic about it.  The ankles and feet are our foundation, our connection with the Earth itself.  In acupuncture philosophy the human is the in-between of the Earth and the Heavens.  It is important to consider.  Other ideas related to the ankle are the ability to stand up for one’s self, standing steady, pushing off, stepping forward, stepping up, and holding your ground.  Simply put, ‘standing on your own two feet’ is a common idea.  Although many ankle injuries are simply a miss-hap, a lack of attention or an accident.  When they are continual or chronic we have to look elsewhere.  Following the ‘kinetic chain’ from the spine all the way to the foot is essential and can really open up some good possibilities of healing other areas of the body and mind.

Trying to treat just the ankle is short changing the patient and not looking at the person as a whole process of being.  The body is not like a car, you cannot easily just replace parts and have it work exactly the same.  It does not work like that, never has, never will.  Think holistically, look at the whole person.  It does not have to be an exhaustive exploration of all the physical alignments, strengths and weaknesses, chemical insufficiencies and emotional components, but it helps to keep that idea of the whole person in the mind with any issue.

Dr. Sean H. Thompson is a chiropractor and acupuncturist in Parker Colorado.  He has been treating ankle injuries for over 20 years and presents his work and findings both online and in person.  https://www.youtube.com/c/thenaturalbodyworks



acupuncture for sprained ankle

Smudge 1How to smudge yourself and your space: To become centered, stabilized and cleared. 

Smudge sticks (Palo Santo or Sage), used by peoples in the West for millennia as a ceremonial and routine way to help them feel centered, healed, whole as well connected to the Universe.  It has properties to help inspire creativity, deepen the connection to ‘divine’, grounding, and aid in physical as well as emotional healing.   Some people have hesitation using smudge because it seems too esoteric, heretical, or just weird.   I have chosen to present it as a way to become clear on an intention you set for yourself or your home.  This way we can use more of the senses to get some concept going in our lives… This procedure we use sight, scent, movement, and sound to anchor our minds in the intention we set.  It is a symbolic way to use this very effective and powerful tool for emotional healing, spiritual development and intent to make the world a little better.

To smudge follow these steps, you can modify them as you please, but this was the traditional way I was taught by ‘senior healers’ I have chosen over my life.

You will need:  a candle, a lighter, a fire or heat proof dish or holder for the lit smudge, Sage or Palo Santo  (many herbs can be used.  Consider also using sweet-grass etc…)  Optionally, use a feather to waft the smoke.  I use my hand, as I find it not as mindful, useful or respectful of other life to use parts of another being… This is also why I do not advocate nor use an abalone shell… etc.

Light the candle and set it where you choose to begin.  Take a moment to be still.  Always use the breath, concentrate on the whole cycle of breathing with a special notice of the stillness of the top of the breath.

Light the end of the stick/bundle with a candle, leave the candle in the starting place.  let the smudge stick burn out to a smolder or waft it with the opposite hand you are holding it with, be mindful not to hit it, do not blow on it as it may spread embers.  Allow the smoke to rise.  It is best to have a fire proof tray or dish to hold it in or set it in.  You can hold it in your hand though.   Give a moment to silently watch the smoke rise.  Do this with an open contemplative mind.  Next, set your intention for why you are ‘smudging’.  Cleansing, clearing, centering, protecting, healing, etc…


IMG_20180602_122007Start anywhere in your house, go to each corner and waft the smoke in three clock-wise circles, then, move to the next corner (clockwise)… You can go to each room this way, ending in the same room you started in.  It helps to keep the intention when wafting the smoke, repeat it quietly or to yourself.  When you are done with the space smudging, grasp (with a cupped hand) the smoke and ‘wash’ your entire body, starting and ending with the area around your heart.  Continue repeating your intention, BE with that intention in your heart or mind.  Once done you can let the Sage or Palo Santo burn a little longer or tamp it out with sand…do not use water.

Keep the smudge stick dry, mindfully dispose of any ash left on the ground outside. (Returning the intention to source).   This is best done at the New Moon or Full Moon times of the month.

For more information, please see our blog or YouTube channel: Thenaturalbodyworks.

Precautions and Contraindications of Cupping Therapy:

Cupping is a therapy that can have great benefit and is relatively safe to do.  The following precautions should be followed to best avoid injury and undue pain.  This list also has contraindications for patients on whom  you should not do any cupping unless you really understand the pathology and physiology of the condition you are treating or trying to help.

  1. Hemophiliacs and those with thrombocytopenia: These people may have bleeding that will not stop, or undue bruising.  This can be more uncomfortable for them; it can possibly cause more problems, as well.


  1. Anyone who is dehydrated. You will likely find poor results, which can be frustrating.  Someone that is very dehydrated can have a good initial result.  However, cupping can cause trouble with the kidneys and make them feel temporarily worse.


  1. Skin allergies, Psoriasis, Vitiligo, eczema: You may make some of these conditions worse, at least in the short term.  Best advice is to avoid any skin that you would not consider ‘normal’.


  1. Any broken skin: Cuts, abrasions, holes, lacerations etc.  These just hurt and we never want to hurt people.  Infections or oozing areas are not a good idea either.


  1. Other skin changes: Raised moles, warts, local tumors, scabbed areas.  You can cause bleeding at these points.  When in doubt, cup elsewhere.


  1. Areas with large vessels, or lymph nodes: Arm pits (axillary), Cervical areas (the front of the neck), in the groin (inguinal), wrists, anterior of the forearm, back of the knee.  These places are usually considered too ‘Yin’ for cupping.  Some techniques can be used; we can discuss these later.  Cupping in these areas can cause severe pain and may damage the vessels or nodes.


  1. Deep vein thrombosis. Although there is little chance of causing more trouble, it is best to get a clearance from a primary provider before continuing.


  1. Genitals, nipples, lips: anywhere there is a mucous membrane. Mucous membranes are those places that open to the outside that have moisture.  Also the umbilicus (belly button).


  1. On the face. Use special technique… and really small cups…


  1. On or around the eye. This can cause exophthalmos, or an avulsion or prolapse of the tissues.  Avoid the eye area.  It would likely hurt a lot, too.


  1. On the tongue or mouth.  Although a part of a recent fad for young people, you can burst blood vessels as these are areas of very thin tissue.


  1. During the menstrual period as this can cause a disruption in the energy flow and increase discomfort, especially if many cups are used, or cupping is done near the uterus or pelvic area. This is a traditional statement really, and I have not found any significant difference in a person’s feelings after cupping.


  1. Women who are pregnant, ESPECIALLY no cupping on the pregnant belly. In fact there are areas on the ankle that are considered completely forbidden during pregnancy, as they can cause uterine contractions and therefore spontaneous abortion or delivery at the wrong time.  This point is generally not easily cupped anyway; it is located on the inner ankle about three thumb widths up from the ankle bone.  I know of no research or actual cases of this, but better to be safe than sorry.  Cupping on the shoulder and back should be fine as long as it is light and done with care.


  1. Any active disease process that weakens the person. Here, refer to comfort and get advice from an advanced provider who understands what cupping is and does.  This would include:  tuberculosis, anemia, respiratory conditions (COPD, Emphysema, Asthma), cardiovascular issues that are not under control, including hypertension and congestive heart failure.  People who suffer from these ailments may not like or do as well with stronger cupping, so use flash or light cupping.  Remember, healing is a timed process.


  1. Anyone under the age of five, (traditionally it is three years old) I have found it impossible to get one so young to sit still long enough…


  1. Bug bites, animal bites; even though you can remove the toxins or poisons, it’s best to let the body do its own work and not irritate it any more.



  1. Anywhere there are sutures or stitches. Any place there has been recent surgery.  Sometimes glue is used to close wounds.  It’s best to wait until healing is complete; a good rule of thumb is six weeks or so after the sutures have been removed.  A good idea is to check with the surgeon first.



  1. Fresh scar tissue. There are some good techniques to get scar tissue to change, but that is a bit advanced.  Using different sized cups is useful here.  Along with herbs and other salves, it can show good results.


  1. Any burn areas, new or old. A sunburn is a terrible place to have cupping.  It will aggravate the issue and the patient can have massive problems with energy flow.  This can cause fever and chills and make them susceptible to other problems.  Wait until the skin has properly healed and no sloughing of skin is occurring. With sunburn, especially sunburn that covers a large area, avoid cupping it.


  1. Other burns, if someone has scar tissue from a burn, it is best not to do cupping on those areas. The skin is no longer normal. There  are significant challenges to the way cupping would have to be applied and how the scarred skin may react.  Get an OK from the primary if possible.


  1. Someone that does not want cupping. This would include someone that is not feeling up to it or is overly skeptical.  They will tend to focus on the discomfort.  As luck would have it, that is when injury is likely to occur.  Best to wait or offer some other treatment.


  1. Someone who has over eaten, is drunk, or drank a lot the night before. You can re-distribute the toxins and make them feel more ill.  Their energy and fluids are needed to transport and help in the digestion or metabolism process.


  1. Severe fatigue:  This is an option really.  Flash cupping can help them actually feel better.  More ‘fresh’ or effervescent…   This of course depends on the type of fatigue and how much time they have for recovery.  As long as they have the proper follow up, there should not be a  real problem.


  1. The palms or soles of the feet. These areas have different skin and it can be overly irritating.   It is also difficult to get the cups to stay.


  1. After strenuous exercise. The release of that reserve energy can cause the patient  to feel even more tired and fatigued.


  1. Be cautious with people who are overly nervous or restless. Some people with severe emotional disturbance cannot tolerate the therapy and should wait until they are feeling more stable. Occasionally, people can experience sudden and sometimes disturbing emotional releases.


  1. A chronic disease process you do not understand well, including complex disorders that you should first discuss with a practitioner who understands cupping, as well as the condition of the person receiving cupping.


  1. Thin skin, very papery skin. This is common in the very old or frail and you should be cautious with this.  Ok to do lighter technique but be gentle and take time.  It may take many visits to see the desired results.


  1. People on certain medications such as Warfarin, Coumadin, have taken a lot of Aspirin, or blood thinners. People that are taking large amounts of fish oils (omegas), DHEA, Vitamin E, or Gingko Biloba.  They may have markings from cupping that will last a very long time.


  1. People that are under treatment for cancer or diabetes. Make sure you get authorization from their primary care provider.  Although there are no research articles or studies that show cupping doing any harm other than the skin discolorations in people with diabetes or cancer, most Western medical practitioners caution that somehow it can help spread the disease.  There is no basis in fact with this as people have had all sorts of other treatments that were once forbidden for cancer patients, massage being one of them.  Remember, cupping is moving fluids within the tissues.  The body’s natural response is to clean and maintain homeostasis.  The cupping treatment stimulates that to continue more vigorously, thereby removing toxins that would otherwise have a harder time being released and properly dealt with.


  1. Other areas as diagramed below. Elbows, knees, ears, feet and hands are not a real contraindication, it is just too difficult to get any cups to stay and there is little benefit from using them there.

How cupping works:

An easy way to think of the big picture with cupping as a therapy is to think of it as a re-awakening of tissues.  If you have kids, the following example may help.  When you tell your kid to clean their room, they go upstairs for a while. You THINK they are doing exactly what you told them to do.  Later, you ask them if they cleaned their room..  They say, ‘Of course I did, just like you said’… So you believe them and let it go.  Sometime later you go up and see there is still a mess…  So this is pretty much how the body works.  The nervous system (brain), or ‘mom’ or ‘dad’ tells the kid (the distant tissues) to clean up.  The brain has lots to do, just like mom and dad, and cannot constantly check everything, so it  assumes all is well… Now, as cupping is concerned,  let’s go back to mom, dad, and the kid for a moment.  Say the light goes out in the room.  Mom  goes in to change the bulb and see the room is a mess, and tells  the kid to get back in there and clean up.  This is what the cup does on one level. It notifies the nervous system that attention is needed in the tissues.  The nervous system responds with a cleanup action.  This is how detoxification occurs.  Things build up in tissues just like they do in a child’s room.  If ignored, eventually dis-ease (lack of ease) occurs in the household (arguments, rolling of eyes, slamming of doors, etc.…) Cupping helps the tissues run at-ease as well as maintain homeostasis and balance in a ‘forgotten’ area.


Cupping changes the pH of tissues.  The pH means the amount or ‘potential’ of Hydrogen ions in a given solution.  Those with many Hydrogen ions bound to them are generally alkaline or ‘high’ pH.  Those with few or are giving off Hydrogen ions are considered acidic or ‘low’ pH.

The pH scale is on a 0 to 14 scale, with 14 being very alkaline and 0 being very acidic.  Distilled water is at 7 or neutral.  That basically means it does not give Hydrogen ions (acid) or receive Hydrogen ions (basic).

Our bodies have a multitude of ways to maintain a proper pH.  But, what is normal???


The ‘normal’ or most efficient pH of blood it 7.4.  To understand this, too low of a pH in blood could be from poor oxygen exchange in the cases of hypo ventilation, asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, near drowning, loss of consciousness etc.  This would require the use of oxygen and a bicarbonate to ‘buffer’ the acid.


On the other hand, hyperventilation or too much O2 can cause the blood to be more alkaline and will reduce the breathing.  A pH of blood that is too high or too low would result in coma and eventual death.

The body is designed to deal with this in many ways.  You can change the breathing pattern and change the pH easily, next is to urinate out acids and the excess Hydrogen ions, then we can sweat, defecate or even take some of the calcium from bone to buffer the acids in the plasma.   Foods also make a significant difference in pH.


Urinary pH should be around 6.5 (slightly acid) to 8.0 (slightly alkaline) but then can become more alkaline in the evening as you have eaten and are releasing electrolytes (7.5 to 8.0).  Too much acid in the body would make the pH of the urine drop below 6.5.


Salivary pH should be between about 6.5 and 7.5.  So also, a rather narrow range.  This can change with foods eaten, amount of hydration, stress, and other biome factors. (Biome is the natural bacteria and other critters living on and in us.)



Cupping: the real deal.

  1. When the cup is placed on the skin, the practitioner will pump air from the bell shaped cup and cause a vacuum. This vacuum will, because of negative pressure in the cup, cause the skin to be pulled upward, making a bulge.


  1. As the skin is pulled up, a deep suction is created in the underlying tissues, which moves fluid (interstitial fluid, intercellular fluid, Lymph, (blood) and plasma). The fluid will change its place, thereby causing a further void that will be filled with other fluids nearby.  This new imbalance causes the vessels to open and bring more water and fluid into the area and help to wash out any toxins that were stuck due to poor circulation.   Not to get too technical, but it is this  action of hydrostatic pressure that moves the fluid.  Then as the fluid has moved to a new area, changing the concentration of fluid proteins, electrolytes and other solutes, they are further moved with osmotic pressure of water, depending on where and how concentrated the ‘stuff’ is in the fluid.


  1. Basically this is what is called Sterling’s Law of Capillaries. Hydrostatic pressure, also called fluid pressure, pushes more at the arteriole areas and pushes water out of the vessel into the interstitial space (space between cells, but outside the vascular system); then the water may travel into a cell (intercellular fluid) or eventually to the lymph capillary to be taken back up to the vascular system at the subclavian veins.  Then osmotic pressure, because of plasma proteins ‘sucks’ the water at the venuoles side… (See the diagram)
  2. Cupping causes a total, yet temporary, disruption of this process. Think of it as the opposite of massage pressure.  Instead of pushing, you are pulling.  This allows fluids to flow in directions they usually do not.  The body’s natural response is to re-regulate the fluid composition and redistribute the fluids back to a more ‘normal’ area.


  1. Stimulation of new blood, lymph, plasma, and intercellular fluid or interstitial fluid flow to areas where it has been removed by the vacuum or negative pressure.
  2. Toxins are generally cellular debris, lactic acids from anaerobic burning of glucose, Carbonic acid from respiration, acidic ketone bodies, and sulfuric acids from other metabolic processes.


  1. Once the fluids have been taken out of their regular environment, the histamines, heparins and other chemicals released by the stimulation of the cupping open the surrounding tissues and allows ‘flushing’ of the fluids back into lymph and blood capillaries. Also, because of the forced imbalance of the cells, spaces between the cells and fat cells, more actions are required by the cells, tissues and surrounding areas to regain their harmony (homeostasis) in the cupped area.


When the kidneys, liver and lungs cannot process these issues and become over worked, the body will naturally put the toxins ‘in storage’ so they can get to them later.  This usually will be in the underlying fat of the skin.   The cupping action is that of a vacuum.  It pulls the tissue and therefore the fluids through the different compartments and, over time, will stimulate the body to clear it out.

Cupping is quicker than acupuncture, massage or even chiropractic at getting toxins to release and be processed.

Cupping can also help you determine the extent of an issue…

-Demonstrates the severity of the congestion (see below)

-Demonstrates the location of the most congestion and stagnation.

-Can stimulate the liver, kidney, lungs and skin to work more efficiently.

A body in motion moves fluids through pressure changes both from within and on the outside.  The gentle bellows action of the normal breathing process, movement of muscles when walking or doing exercise help fluids change places.  Other ways you can get this is with massage, stretching, and other normal activities.  Many times people are rather sedentary; they work at jobs that require sitting, then go to a vehicle that offers the same.  Since they are tired, they simply go home and sit on the couch, then go to bed.  This is far too little movement of the body and will inevitably lead to stagnation and eventual breakdown.

Take the example of bed sores, called stasis ulcers.  When people are bed ridden and cannot move, the fluids in the body begin to settle and ooze through their normal position toward the ground.  The first signs are redness, then an oily sheen on that part of the skin as the plasma and lymph are oozing through.  Soon the tissue will become irritated and not be able to transfer out carbon dioxide or get oxygen, thereby becoming acidic. It  starts to break down.  That leads to an ulcer (an open lesion of the skin). The ulcer is susceptible to dis-ease from bacteria, becomes  active in the acidic environment and does  not have  good blood flow, which impedes the natural cleaning process by the blood (do you mean red?) and white blood cells.  Once bacteria get going, they can be difficult to stop.  Most people who are bed ridden do not have a great immune system to begin with. That can begin a cascade of trouble, leading to sepsis and eventual death.

Cupping is not the only answer, of course.  It is one tool.  The first and foremost way to ensure there is good flow is to move.  Exercise, get massage, do some stretches!  Let us imagine you have had a back injury. To help your body through this injury, your  muscles tighten,  the blood flow decreases and then your blood can become still and stagnant, making it difficult to clean out.  I suggest only a few sessions to get things going, and you can get the whole process in motion and find quicker relief. (? Did not understand last sentence.)

An occasional ‘tune up’ is a good idea and I suggest once a month or so, with a follow up visit. ).The chart below will show you what to look for.   As areas go from congested through to good healthy blood flow, you will find more relief.  Someone with spots after cupping that are on the left side (healthy Blood Circulation) will have a pink-ness that will go away in a day or so.  They only need maintenance, for example, once every few weeks depending on their activity levels.

Cupping Therapy Mishaps, When things go wrong:

What to do if…

In cupping as a practice, like any type of health care procedure, things can go not as planned.  In fact, you can hurt yourself or others with most health maintenance products.  One can cut a gum with dental floss; rupture an ear drum with a ‘Q-Tip’, or cut yourself with a simple razor.  You can also overdose on the myriad of over the counter medications available at any local store, many with fatal results.  Did you know, for example, that over 1,000 people a year die from taking Tylenol as it is suggested ON the label?!

Some of the mishaps can occur even with the most conscientious practitioner.   The best defense is a good offense with this and I would like to explain what I mean by that.

Most of the issues we will see with cupping are very minor indeed; however, knowing how to handle an unexpected problem can make all the difference, if you are prepared.  Here is a list of the most common and what to do about them.  While we are using a cupping system and technique that avoids fire, we generally do not have to worry about the most common injury in fire cupping, that is, burns.  Please refer to the section on contraindications and precautions to keep these from happening….


  1. Bleeding mole or mark: If you placed the cup near a mole that is raised or at all different from the surrounding skin, it can tear or open and bleed.  This is a simple fix.  First, stop the cupping on that area and remove the cup.  Use a cotton ball or gauze swab to clean any blood off the skin.  Make  sure you stop the bleeding with direct pressure.  Clean the area well and place a Band-Aid on the open skin.  You may choose to tell the person having cupping to use some Neosporin and to watch the area for proper healing.  Make sure and follow up over the next few days to see how it is going.  Reassure the ‘client’ that it can happen in rare occasions and is largely inconsequential.  Any infection should be followed up with a more qualified practitioner.


  1. Severe bruise: In this case we see a bruise that seems to last too long.  Remember the lesion you created is not a true bruise.  A bruise is a breaking of blood vessels and ‘frank blood’ leaking into the surrounding tissues.  Reassure the client and have them use a cold pack for pain if they experience this.


  1. Skin irritation: Stop the cupping if you see increased redness around the cup, or if the client complains that the cupping itches.  It is simply too much pressure.  Release some of the pressure in the cup but keep it in place for the duration of the treatment.  If irritation occurs after the cupping session, it may also be a sign that the tissues were very closed off, and the new flow of fluids are stimulating new flow of nutrients and toxins out of the system.  If this is too irritating or they notice swelling that lasts more than a day or two, this means they are VERY toxic and will need much more treatment.  Heat then, would be the choice of treatment.  A good Epsom salts bath can help.


  1. Health Care Crisis’ i.e. feeling worse after a session: This is common when there is  poor energy in the body to handle the toxins that were stirred up by treatment.  Here, the best treatment is lots of good fluids and get some rest.  The client should be reassured that this can be expected only once or twice ever and that future treatments will be more invigorating for sure.  If the feeling of cruddiness lasts more than two days, it is best to get to a more qualified practitioner for an evaluation. There  may be something else going on not really related to the cupping.


  1. Prolapsed or bulging vessel: This can happen when cupping is done on one of the areas you should not be doing it on… so make sure you follow the precautions.  If this does happen because of too brazen cupping, press the area with a finger and place a cold pack on it as soon as possible.  If the vessel ruptures you will see lots of bruising.  Best not to do any more cupping on that area until completely healed, and then consider other areas.


  1. Blisters filled with water: This happens when the tissues of the patient are too tight, acting like wood.  There is no good capillary flow and the lymph is sluggish at best.  The blisters may pop.  If not, it is best to pop them on the most inferior aspect and let them drain.  Make sure they stay covered as this is open skin.  It is very common that they leave red marks ‘lesions’ for up to a couple weeks.    In the future consider massage or ‘moving’ cupping technique.


  1. Infection: In the very exceptionally rare event of any type of infection:  That is, heat, redness, pain, and swelling in the area. Stop cupping until the infection is cleared and get to the real cause of their illness.  Refer to another provider as soon as possible.  Any area that may have broken skin or that you might think has infection, cover with Neosporin and watch it closely for a few days for signs of healing.   Treat it as you would any injury to the skin.


  1. Broken skin, tearing: This is most common in older people that have paper thin skin and are generally poorly hydrated. The skin can tear like wet paper.  Avoid further cupping and make sure the area is covered and let to heal properly.  Maintain communication with the client about this, and that they need much more integumentary hydration and collagen.  They should consider strong doses of Vitamin C to help with skin repair.  Other nutritionals should also be considered.   Make sure that they are hydrated and keep that up as well as something to hydrate and help the skin.



  1. Pain during cupping: This is common in first timers as well as when you get a little too aggressive with the cupping.  Check in with the client every few minutes.  This therapy can be uncomfortable, but too much pain just stresses the client.  Release some of the pressure by pulling the tab at the top of the cup.  Then you can add more pressure by using the pump gun for another light pump or two.


  1. Emotional releases: This is left for last because it is the least expected and can be one of the most disturbing for both the client and practitioner.  Often the client is too stressed to receive cupping for this session; however, you both choose to do it at this time.  There is no lasting trouble here, so be confident and compassionate.

Here is what to do.  First, have the client stay still if they can, and loosen the cups but do not remove them… Then have the client breath out longer than they breathe in.  When they exhale do it as if they are fogging their glasses to clean them. This enhances the tone of the Vagus nerve and they will soon relax.  Offer simple ‘holding of a space’ support.  There is no need to talk it out unless they are willing and ready.

In fact, let them initiate.  Explain to them that occasionally, emotional energies get caught up in tissues and can be released with such therapies.  It is really a great sign that healing or detoxification is occurring on multiple levels is possible, and the release is a great sign.  Comfort and rest are the best treatment now.  Future treatments may or may not have the same response.  Just go with it.    Catharsis is a good thing.  The safe space you have created allowed this to blossom forth.

Types of cupping

  1. Weak or light cupping: This is just as it says, light and easy.  One pump or so, left for a short time, to begin the stimulation of the movement of the fluids.  This is great for first timers, children, the skeptical, and frail.


  1. Medium or strong cupping: As you work up to this level, you will see more stagnation and more movement of the fluids.  This is, in my opinion, the best technique.  You can work up to it either over multiple visits/treatments or during a treatment.  Basically an extension of weak cupping.


  1. Moving cupping: (Negative Pressure Massage) this is a great technique for muscle pain, and for stress care (Emotional, mental, spiritual or energetic).  Use the meridian charts to move the energy and stagnation out, as well as to enhance or reduce the flow of Qi energy.  You can use oils to help the cups slide across the skin.  It is difficult on bony areas and areas that are in corners etc… Finnish cups are either silicone or a form of latex that are flexible and work really well for muscle tightness.   You can also affect the myofascial system greatly with this technique.  Similar is a technique of pulling or moving the skin that is held under the cup.


  1. Needle or puncture cupping: Also called wet cupping.  In this technique, though, we are using cupping along with acupuncture and are only attempting to get one drop of blood.  This causes a healing event and can help the body with swelling and with chronic issues.  Proper technique requires good cleaning and sterile equipment.


  1. Moxa or hot cupping: Sometimes a piece of paper is set alight and placed in the cup.  Usually when the cup is placed on the body the paper burns away and sticks to the top of the cup.  It can burn the patient.  It can be infused paper with certain herbs, or have certain prayers of sayings written upon them to enhance more subtle healing.  I do not prefer this, as again we are playing with fire… on many levels.


  1. Empty or flash cupping: This is a misnomer really; it is very quick and repetitive to get some redness.  We are not leaving the cups on more than a couple moments.  Good for use on the face, and some areas that have lots of vascularity or lymph tissue.   This is also good for the very fatigued as it can increase Qi energy movement.


  1. Wet or bleeding cupping: Found typically in western medicine and Middle Eastern medicine.  Here, cuts are placed in the skin then the cups pull out the stagnant blood or morbid humors[1]… This is a big hazard for infection, but even so,  it is quite popular.  The blood needs to be properly discarded and cleaned.  I find it disagreeable and rather advanced.  I do not think I would have it done to me unless I was in a dire condition.


  1. Herbal cupping: Placing herbal liquids or tinctures in the cup can help deliver them into the tissues directly.  Works great with tinctures made with alcohol.  No burning is necessary.  We can do this one with the vacuum cups.  It can be messy and may cause some irritation on the skin.


  1. Water cupping: The cups are placed in very hot water and then placed on the body; this heat transfer causes the vacuum phenomenon.  It is primarily used with either horn or bamboo cups.  We do not use it because it can also burn the person as well as create a wet mess.


  1. Fire cupping: This involves the use of spirits such as rubbing alcohol as the fuel.  The fuel is rubbed inside the cup and set alight, then the cup is placed on the body.  The fire depletes the oxygen in the cup and creates a vacuum and suction.  We do not do this type of cupping for a few reasons.  First of all, fire burns stuff.  The cup can become hot and can burn the skin or scorch the skin.  It only allows for a single application per cup at a time.  You cannot easily adjust the suction.  This is perhaps one of the oldest ways to cup.