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Hate needles? No problem!

Hate needles? No problem!

by Grace Ganel

Here at Three Treasures Wellness, we understand that not everyone is “down” with needles. There are plenty of ways to treat acupuncture points! Plus, there are many modalities that work the same channel systems, promoting smooth flow of blood and breath energy, without needles. I practice Zero Balancing - gently manipulating joints and body parts to encourage health on all levels. Other modalities include Yin Yoga, Reiki, acupressure, reflexology, tai chi, and more.

In this week’s blog, learn about some of the non-needle therapies that are integral to the treatments offered by Three Treasures Wellness’ Grace Ganel.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

1) Moxibustion

Moxibustion is the art of warming acupuncture points using a dried herb called mugwort (moxa in Japanese). The Japanese schools of acupuncture use a lot of moxa. It can be practiced directly on the skin, or indirectly in a packed or rolled form, or by placing something between the skin and the moxa, such as a slice of fresh ginger, or salt. In direct moxibustion, the moxa is rolled into a conical shape and lit on fire using the ember from an incense stick. The patient is instructed to tell the practitioner “hot” when they first feel the warmth of the moxa, and the practitioner removes the burning moxa before it reaches the skin. The moxa feels pleasantly warm. It may leave a slight yellow tinge to the skin, and the skin may appear pink immediately after moxibustion, but adverse events are rare (McPherson, Scullion, Thomas, and Walters, 2004). My patients love receiving moxa treatments. It’s a great way to give people some TLC, and add some energy into a tired, cold body, mind, and spirit.

2) Cupping

Cupping uses glass, plastic, or silicone cups with suction or some other means of forming a vacuum. Cupping leaves bruise marks that are typically painless. The theory behind this technique is to raise blood and energy to the surface of the body, moving stagnant fluids in injured muscles, and to help the body fight pathogens. I find that this technique supports people with symptoms of common cold, sports injuries, tremors, spasms, and muscle tightness. It was in the news a few years ago when Michael Phelps and other Olympic swimmers were covered in cupping bruises. I liken the effects of cupping to receiving a 90 minute massage in 10 minutes.

3) Gua Sha

Gua Sha uses a blunt, smooth implement to stimulate the skin. The theory is very similar to cupping. The marks from gua sha look more pink and splotchy rather than like bruises, though the term translates roughly to “scraping bruising.” I have used this technique to support patients with common cold symptoms, muscle and joint pain, headaches, and sports injuries.

4) Acupressure and Tui Na

Many patients are sensitive to needling, and need only gentle stimulation of acupoints. For these individuals, massaging acupoints with the hands or applying small implements called “beads” (tiny magnets on medical tape) provides enough stimulation to the acupuncture points for symptomatic relief. One of the best things about beads is that they can be retained on the skin for several days and massaged by the wearer, allowing for extended treatment.

Tui Na is a massage modality specific to Chinese medicine. There are many Tui Na techniques, for use in different situations. These can be used on specific acupuncture channels (along acupuncture points) or across whole regions, such as the upper back.

5) Zero Balancing

Zero Balancing (ZB) is a gentle bodywork modality which involves moving joints and pressing into bones and body structures while the client lays on the table on their back, fully clothed. The practitioner alternates between picking up limbs and sliding their hands between the client and the table. This modality works to relieve tension in joints and bones. ZB was developed by Fritz Smith, an osteopathic doctor who also studied acupuncture. While the ZB practitioner is moving the body, the work is both physical and energetic. In my experience, ZB can support clients who are suffering with insomnia, joint pain, back pain, headaches, and more. The best thing about ZB is that it feels great! Sessions typically last 45-60 minutes. ZB practitioners are required to complete a certificate training program in addition to a license in a bodywork modality, such as acupuncture or massage prior to working with clients.

6) Chinese Herbal Therapy

Ask your practitioner for a referral to a Chinese Herbal therapist. I advise you do not take herbs willy-nilly - please get a thorough examination and consultation from a certified herbalist.


MacPherson, H., Scullion, A., Thomas, K.J., & Walters, S. (2004). Patient reports of adverse events associated with acupuncture treatment: A prospective national survey. Qual Saf Health Care. dos:10.1136/qshc.2003.009134

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