Gua Sha – A Natural Way to Reduce Pain

Gua Sha – A Natural Way to Reduce Pain

Gua Sha is an ancient technique that has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and other forms of Traditional East Asian medicine.

Gua Sha is a natural way of relieving pain and restoring balance to one’s body and mind.

By using special tools, practitioners can stimulate the body’s natural healing process and promote circulation. Let’s take a look at how this technique works and the benefits it can offer.

How Does Gua Sha Work?

Gua Sha involves applying pressure with a smooth-edged tool to the skin in order to stimulate circulation. This helps release muscle tension, break down scar tissue, improve lymphatic drainage, reduce inflammation, and restore balance in the body. The effects of Gua Sha are typically very fast-acting, with some people feeling relief from pain within minutes of treatment.

Benefits of Gua Sha for Pain Relief

The most immediate benefit of Gua Sha is pain relief from various ailments such as headaches, back pain, neck stiffness, muscle soreness or tightness, joint pain, sciatica, tendonitis and other chronic conditions. In addition to providing short-term relief from acute symptoms, regular use of Gua Sha may provide long-term benefits as well by helping to prevent further injury or recurrences of pain due to chronic conditions.

  • Promotes blood circulation, modern science has proved that Gua Sha can expand capillaries, increase sweat gland secretion
  • Detoxes by improving the flow of blood and energy in your body, your metabolic activity will naturally increase and toxins can be removed efficiently
  • Removes the buildup of lactic acid which accumulated from overuse
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Relaxes muscles
  • Releases pain
  • Enhances the flow of energy by release the stagnation or blocked energy in your meridian

Gua Sha also helps reduce stress levels by inducing relaxation during treatment sessions which can help improve sleep quality and reduce anxiety levels over time. Finally, it helps increase energy levels by stimulating circulation throughout the body which improves oxygen supply and nutrient delivery to cells resulting in improved overall health.

Gua Sha is a safe and natural way to relieve pain without relying on medications or invasive treatments.

This ancient technique can help reduce inflammation and promote circulation for fast-acting relief from acute symptoms as well as long-term benefits for those dealing with chronic conditions like neck stiffness or joint pain.

Who should not Gua Sha:

  • Children’s skin is relatively tender, thus children below 6 years old are not recommended.
  • People with serious cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease and systemic edema. Gua Sha may increase subcutaneous blood circulation, which may increase the burden on the heart, liver and kidney.
  • Gua Sha should be avoided in the abdomen and lumbosacral area for people who are pregnant.
  • Gua Sha should be prohibited on body surface with boils, carbuncles, ulcers or broken skin.

Are you looking for natural ways to reduce / relieve your pain?

Schedule a 15 minute video consultation to learn more about how our team of acupuncturists can help.

Anna Rudel
San Jose Acupuncturist
Follow us on Instagram
Make an Appointment

Can Acupuncture Help My Headaches?

Can Acupuncture Help My Headaches?

Headaches are as varied as the people who suffer from them.

Headaches can feel hot or cold; they can wrap around the head, in the neck, behind the eyes or one side; they can make a person sleepy; they can cause spots in front of the eyes; and they can go on for hours or even days. The common factor is that headaches are uncomfortable and, unfortunately, very common.

Acupuncture is effectively used both as an intervention and as a prevention for headaches.

Whether someone is currently experiencing a headache, or is eager to prevent them, acupuncture works!. In fact, individual large-scale clinical studies have consistently demonstrated that acupuncture provided better pain relief compared with usual care.

When we use acupuncture to work with headaches, we seek to understand what is going on with the body. We might ask our patients:

  • Where is your headache pain?
  • When did it start?
  • Does it get better with heat or cold?
  • What makes it feel better (if anything)?
  • What makes it feel worse?
  • What is the pain like – is it stabbing, dull, shooting, pressure-like?
  • How often do you get headaches like this?
  • Are there themes prior to the onset of your headaches? (e.g. stressful event, poor sleep or physical activity)
  • What have you already tried to reduce the pain?
  • Have you had any imaging or diagnostic tests?

We might also ask questions about diet, hormones, sleep, exercise and stress. The answers allow us to formulate a diagnosis and treat our patients individually and appropriately.

The interesting thing about East Asian medicine is that the location of the headache tells us a lot.

For example, a headache that is located right on the top of the head is treated very differently to one that starts in the back of the neck. Similarly, a headache that radiates from behind the eyes is approached differently from one that feels like a band around the head.

The different types of headaches usually have distinct underlying causes. It is important to spend time assessing and addressing any possible underlying conditions that may be contributing to the pain.

One of the most common types of headache is known as a tension headache, or stress-related headache.

Stress-related headaches can be caused by muscular tension in the shoulders, neck and jaw. They tend to come on later in the day, after a long day at work or during a period of unusual stress. They tend to be bilateral (on both sides) of the head, and patients will often use their hand to massage their own shoulders or neck when they are experiencing the pain.

These headaches tend to respond extremely well to acupuncture, and research has shown that acupuncture may reduce the frequency of tension type headaches (Nielsen, 2017).  In addition, other modalities can help relax the muscles and bring the body back into balance. Your acupuncturist might choose to use a combination of acupuncture, cupping, gua sha, stretches and herbal medicine to bring about relief.

Patients may not know that it is a good idea to seek acupuncture treatment during a headache.

Instead of suffering through a debilitating headache and losing an entire day managing pain on your own, it is beneficial to schedule an appointment the morning you wake up with one. This is also helpful for the practitioner to diagnose the problem in real time.

If you are already under the care of a doctor or other practitioner for headaches, we are always happy to collaborate with your care team to bring you the best possible results.

To schedule an appointment or a free consultation, please visit our website.

Anna Rudel
San Jose Acupuncturist
Follow us on Instagram
Make an Appointment

Acupuncture for Chronic Pain Conditions

Acupuncture for Chronic Pain Conditions

“Why does everything hurt now?”

This is the question I commonly hear from patients who are seeking acupuncture for chronic pain.

Their pain typically begins in one part of their body; however, when the pain has persisted for a long time – usually for at least 3 months or more – then the pain may have become chronic.

With time, the pain has not only not gone away, it has started to take over the rest of their body and seemingly the rest of their lives. This progression may be due to changes in the central nervous system that can occur with chronic pain, called central sensitization.

What are the symptoms of central sensitization?


When everything hurts: Little touches, like a handshake or a hug from a loved one, may even feel painful (Latremoliere, 2009).


When pain feels amplified to a higher intensity than normal for that type of injury or condition (Tick et al, 2018).

Anxiety, depression, insomnia:

These symptoms can occur with chronic pain, when parts of the brain – the amygdala and hippocampus – are affected by central sensitization (Mansour et al, 2014).

What are some chronic pain conditions that often include central sensitization?

  • Fibromyalgia
  • Tension headache
  • Migraine
  • Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) dysfunction and pain
  • Low back pain
  • Sciatica
  • Radiculopathy
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Endometriosis
  • Pelvic pain
  • Neuropathic pain (trigeminal neuralgia, post-herpetic neuralgia)
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome

Why is chronic pain so challenging?

The symptoms described above are often distressing in themselves, but it’s even more distressing when people with chronic pain and their loved ones do not understand what is happening to them.

Friends or family may suggest that the pain levels are exaggerated.

Based on the injury itself or the diagnosis, they may even agree that their pain levels shouldn’t be so high. Patients often begin to question themselves and feel frustrated with their perceived failure to improve.

Research has shown that pain biomarkers are elevated in central sensitization; however, – patients are not imagining nor are they exaggerating the high pain levels (Akinci et al, 2015).

How can acupuncture help with chronic pain conditions?

Acupuncture is a safe, effective therapy for chronic pain.

In a patient data meta-analysis published in the Journal of Pain, it was concluded that acupuncture is an effective treatment for chronic musculoskeletal pain, headache, and osteoarthritis pain and that a referral to acupuncture is a reasonable treatment option for any type of chronic pain (Vickers, et al, 2018).

Researchers have identified at least six different analgesic mechanisms through which acupuncture reduces pain. These mechanisms may potentially interfere with the central sensitization feature of chronic pain and lead to relief (Lai et al, 2019).

Traditional acupuncture is a whole person treatment modality

Acupuncturists look at the whole person with all of their symptoms together – including those that would be divided into either mental health or physical health categories by modern biomedicine.

As a result, we can treat the root cause of the symptoms for quicker relief.

Lara McQuade, L. Ac. is a pain specialist at Lokahi Acupuncture. With a strong background in chronic pain conditions, she specializes in headache, neck pain and back pain.

If you would like to schedule a free online consultation with her, click here and follow the link.

“I have been in practice for 18 years, with a specialty in the treatment of patients with chronic pain conditions for the last 13 years. I am so grateful to have found acupuncture to give relief and comfort to people with chronic pain in so many ways and with so few side effects. In almost every case of chronic pain I have found acupuncture to be worth trying, either on its own or as part of an integrative team care plan. There is just such low risk and such high potential for benefit.” -Lara

Lara McQuade, L. Ac.
San Jose Acupuncturist
Follow us on Instagram
Make an Appointment



Akinci A, Al Shaker M, Chang MH, Cheung CW, Danilov A, José Dueñas H, Kim YC, Guillen R, Tassanawipas W, Treuer T, Wang Y. Predictive factors and clinical biomarkers for treatment in patients with chronic pain caused by osteoarthritis with a central sensitisation component. Int J Clin Pract. 2016 Jan;70(1):31-44. doi: 10.1111/ijcp.12749. Epub 2015 Nov 11. PMID: 26558538; PMCID: PMC4738415.

Amorim, D., Amado, J., Brito, I., Fiuza, S. M., Amorim, N., Costeira, C., & Machado, J. (2018). Acupuncture and electroacupuncture for anxiety disorders: A systematic review of the clinical research. Complementary therapies in clinical practice, 31, 31–37.

Bao, S., Qiao, M., Lu, Y., & Jiang, Y. (2022). Neuroimaging Mechanism of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy in Pain Management. Pain research & management, 2022, 6266619.

Kim, S. A., Lee, S. H., Kim, J. H., van den Noort, M., Bosch, P., Won, T., Yeo, S., & Lim, S. (2021). Efficacy of Acupuncture for Insomnia: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. The American journal of Chinese medicine, 49(5), 1135–1150.

Lai, H. C., Lin, Y. W., & Hsieh, C. L. (2019). Acupuncture-Analgesia-Mediated Alleviation of Central Sensitization. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2019, 6173412.

Latremoliere, A., & Woolf, C. J. (2009). Central sensitization: a generator of pain hypersensitivity by central neural plasticity. The journal of pain, 10(9), 895–926.

Lin JG, Kotha P, Chen YH. Understandings of acupuncture application and mechanisms. Am J Transl Res. 2022 Mar 15;14(3):1469-1481. PMID: 35422904; PMCID: PMC8991130.

Mansour AR, Farmer MA, Baliki MN, Apkarian AV. Chronic pain: the role of learning and brain plasticity. Restor Neurol Neurosci. 2014;32(1):129-39. doi: 10.3233/ RNN-139003. PMID: 23603439; PMCID: PMC4922795.

Vickers AJ, Vertosick EA, Lewith G, MacPherson H, Foster NE, Sherman KJ, Irnich D, Witt CM, Linde K; Acupuncture Trialists’ Collaboration. Acupuncture for Chronic Pain: Update of an Individual Patient Data Meta-Analysis. J Pain. 2018 May;19(5):455-474. doi: 10.1016/j.jpain.2017.11.005. Epub 2017 Dec 2. PMID: 29198932; PMCID: PMC5927830.

Acupuncture for Headaches - 5 Types of Headaches Acupuncture Can Help

5 Types of Headaches Acupuncture Can Help With

Written by Lara McQuade L. Ac. 

Around 90% of people worldwide experience a headache at some point in their lives (Robbins, 2021).

Acupuncture is a safe, gentle and effective treatment for headaches without the harmful side effects of medication.

No wonder headache is one of the most common ailments for which people seek acupuncture treatment. Several headache conditions can improve with acupuncture treatment, including: tension type headache, migraine headache, mixed headache, cervicogenic headache, and occipital neuralgia.

Location of acupuncture points to treat headache vary. Sometimes acupuncturists will place needles in the muscles of the scalp and neck for headache. However, headaches will often be treated with acupuncture points at other areas of the body such as the arms and legs.

1. Tension Type Headache

Research has shown that acupuncture may reduce the frequency of tension type headaches  (Nielsen, 2017). Tension Type Headache is by far the most common type of primary headache, affecting about 80% of the population (Ertsey et al, 2019).

Tension type headaches are usually mild to moderate, not severe enough to seek emergency medical care, yet can still be very disruptive to people’s lives. Tension headaches are felt in the following areas (Turkistani et al, 2021):

  • Pain at the temples

  • Pressure like a band around the forehead

  • Pain and tension in the muscles of the neck, shoulders and upper back

  • Pain behind the eyes

2. Migraine Headache

Migraine headaches are not quite as common as tension type headaches, but the pain and other migraine symptoms can be severe and disabling. Migraine Disorder is the number one cause of disability worldwide for young women (Steiner et al, 2020). Fortunately, acupuncture can help for migraine symptoms too (Urits et al, 2020).

Some common symptoms of migraine headache are:

  • One-sided headache

  • Throbbing pain

  • Symptoms that last several days

Headaches are just one symptom of migraine disorder, and other symptoms can include:

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Light and noise sensitivity

  • Visual disturbances

  • Vertigo

  • Sensitivity to strong smells like scented candles, detergents, or car exhaust

3. Mixed Headache

Mixed headache is the way to describe the condition in which someone often gets more than one type of headache. For example, this most often describes mixed tension headache and migraine headache. Oftentimes, people experience tension headaches more frequently, and a severe episode precedes a migraine headache.

While some academics argue over whether the term, “mixed headache” is needed, with headache symptoms few people have symptoms that neatly fit into one box or another. Acupuncture is a unique approach that allows treatment targeted at the exact headache pattern that day.

4. Cervicogenic Headache

Sometimes headache pain may actually be generated from a problem at the neck. This is known as cervicogenic headache. Neck conditions such as arthritis, nerve root impingement, whiplash injury, or other neck conditions may be involved.

Acupuncture may be helpful for this type of pain by taking the approach of treating the neck problem directly, to indirectly affect the headache (Chu, 2016).

5. Occipital Neuralgia

In this condition, pain is caused by irritation, injury or compression of the occipital nerves at the back of the head.

Symptoms of occipital neuralgia:

  • Brief episodes of sharp, shooting pain at the back of the head

  • May also have constant low grade pain

  • Pain may be one-sided or bilateral

This type of headache can sometimes be difficult to distinguish from migraine headache. Acupuncture treatment will often be targeted to reduce tension of muscles and fascia at the back of the head, to alleviate compression of the nerve. (Pan et al, 2021)

Lara McQuade, L.Ac. is a pain specialist at Lokahi Acupuncture. With a strong background in chronic pain, she specializes in headache, neck pain and neurological conditions. If you would like to schedule a free online consultation with her, click here and follow the link.

Lara McQuade, San Jose Acupuncturist
Follow us on Instagram
Make an Appointment



Barmherzig, R., & Kingston, W. (2019). Occipital Neuralgia and Cervicogenic Headache: Diagnosis and Management. Current neurology and neuroscience reports, 19(5), 20.

Djavaherian DM, Guthmiller KB. Occipital Neuralgia. [Updated 2022 May 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from:

Ertsey, C., Magyar, M., Gyüre, T., Balogh, E., & Bozsik, G. (2019). A tenziós fejfájás és kezelése [Tension type headache and its treatment possibilities]. Ideggyogyaszati szemle, 72(1-2), 13–21.

Chu, H., & Hu, B. (2016). Zhongguo zhen jiu = Chinese acupuncture & moxibustion, 36(1), 29–32.

Nielsen A. (2017). Acupuncture for the Prevention of Tension-Type Headache (2016). Explore (New York, N.Y.), 13(3), 228–231.

Pan, W., Peng, J., & Elmofty, D. (2021). Occipital Neuralgia. Current pain and headache reports, 25(9), 61.

Robbins M. S. (2021). Diagnosis and Management of Headache: A Review. JAMA, 325(18), 1874–1885.

Steiner, T. J., Stovner, L. J., Jensen, R., Uluduz, D., Katsarava, Z., & Lifting The Burden: the Global Campaign against Headache (2020). Migraine remains second among the world’s causes of disability, and first among young women: findings from GBD2019. The journal of headache and pain, 21(1), 137.

Turkistani, A., Shah, A., Jose, A. M., Melo, J. P., Luenam, K., Ananias, P., Yaqub, S., & Mohammed, L. (2021). Effectiveness of Manual Therapy and Acupuncture in Tension-Type Headache: A Systematic Review. Cureus, 13(8), e17601.

Urits, I., Patel, M., Putz, M. E., Monteferrante, N. R., Nguyen, D., An, D., Cornett, E. M., Hasoon, J., Kaye, A. D., & Viswanath, O. (2020). Acupuncture and Its Role in the Treatment of Migraine Headaches. Neurology and therapy, 9(2), 375–394.

5 Benefits of Cupping - Cupping Lokahi Acupuncture

4 Benefits of Cupping

What is Cupping?

Cupping is an ancient form of healing that gained interest and popularity during the 2016 Olympics when swimmer Michael Phelps sported some round bruises on his back. Cupping is the application of glass, silicone, bamboo or plastic cups onto the body in a vacuum, creating a suction on the skin. Suction force expands and breaks open tiny blood vessels (capillaries) under the skin. The body treats the cupping site like an injury and sends more blood to the area to stimulate the natural healing process.

Many cultures throughout the world use cupping, which attests to  its many benefits as a therapy. Different types of practitioners use cupping as an essential therapy here in the United States. For example acupuncturists, physical therapists, chiropractors, medical doctors and massage therapists.

Cupping can be used for a variety of conditions such as:

  • low back pain
  • tight shoulders
  • arthritis
  • sports injury
  • asthma
  • headaches, including migraine headaches
  • non-specific aches and pains

At Lokahi Acupuncture, we use a form of cupping known as “dry cupping”.

Using glass cups, the practitioner will create a vacuum with gentle heat and then place the cup on the skin. The skin is then drawn into the cup causing the blood vessels near the surface to break. The cup is typically applied to the skin for about 5 minutes.

Dry cupping is our preferred method because it’s safe and doesn’t carry a risk of injury, and it’s sanitary with easy to sterilize cups.

1. Cupping increases blood flow

When the body has sustained an injury, the body’s healing mechanisms make sure that the area of injury has an increased flow of blood bringing nutrients and other cells to the rescue. Cupping helps increase that blood flow, known as vasodilation, to prevent scar tissue from forming or building up. This can help speed recovery.

2. Cupping decreases inflammation

It might sound counterintuitive; and although cupping increases blood flow, it also helps to decrease inflammation. Blood flow brings the cells necessary to reduce inflammation, and cupping increases that blood flow.

3. Cupping helps relax muscles

Working out, injury or certain stressors can cause muscles to be stiff and painful. Cupping helps decrease tightness, allowing the muscles to relax and recuperate. If muscles have been in a spasm for any length of time, cupping can be an extremely effective form of therapy to release that spasm, encouraging the body to heal.

4. Cupping eases pain

There is little consensus on exactly how cupping mitigates pain so well. One theory is that the process induces the production of endorphins. Endorphins are the chemicals the body produces that act on the brain to induce relaxation, pain reduction and mood elevation.

A few things to keep in mind

For many cupping is extremely relaxing, but for others it can be intense. Communicating with your practitioner ensures that you feel safe and that if you are experiencing anything more than minor pain, it can be taken care of.

Cupping causes round bruises following a session. These bruises vary from person to person and usually don’t last longer than a couple of days.

Receiving cupping from a qualified practitioner who is both licensed and experienced results in the best outcomes.

Our pain specialists at Lokahi Acupuncture have extensive experience in cupping, and use this therapy frequently to complement acupuncture treatments. If you are interested in scheduling a free online consultation, you can book here.

Anna Rudel
San Jose Acupuncturist
Follow us on Instagram
Make an Appointment