Fire Cupping and Back Scraping Could Save Your Life!

Fire Cupping (bá guàn)

Back in 2005 I thought I was going to die… literally, it was the worst Flu I had ever experienced. Maybe it was from the new environment in China, or perhaps it was a random winter bug! No matter where it came from, it kept me in bed very achy muscles. I couldn’t get out of bed to visit the bathroom- it was that bad. I quickly decided that I would need help or else I’d be a goner. At the time I was dating a Vietnamese girl who was studying at the Southern Yangzte University of Wuxi, which is what I called home for the first month I was in China. After a distress call she immediately came to my apartment, flipped me face down, and started scraping my back with a washed coin. She poured White Flower Oil (白花油) all over my back during this process. It sucked. It burned. And I could be forgiven for thinking that she was helping the flu kill me even faster!

Back Scrapping
Back Scraping (guā shā)

After about 15 minutes of this I actually felt a bit numb. I could tell that my back was fully swollen red. The medicinal smell had already soaked me to the bone. This was my first experience with Gua Sha (刮痧) and I was hoping I would never need to go through that pain ever again. A few years later I noticed glass cups being used on some guests at a local spa. I also noticed big round dots on the backs of beach-goers. When I probed further I realized they got a procedure done called Ba Guan (拔罐). As you can see in the first picture of this post, Ba Guan uses suction to pull tight on your skin. This, according to thousands of years of practice, extracts impurities from your skin and blood. When you are feeling ill for a few days with symptoms such as tiredness, upset stomach, cough, sore throat, or even acne, you may consider having one of these two procedures done. It is not magic, however, it is imperative that these techniques be part of a healthy lifestyle. Remember, most Traditional Chinese Medicine is part of the cure, not a silver bullet.

  • arielmaimai

    I think Ba Guan is gaining wider popularity with the success of the film “The Karate Kid” featuring Jackie Chan and Jaden Smith. I’ve never tried Ba Guan before, used to think it was something only old people would do. But now I can see more and more of my friends who are in their 20s getting Ba Guan, and I am thinking maybe it’s a very good way to release pressure and combat computer-related illness and discomfort. Should definitely try it someday.

  • Anonymous

    So the Karate Kid has big circles on his back too? ^^ It definitely helps during my mini-sickness times. Recovery time is shorter after doing it!

  • Echothree3

    I was skeptical about ba guan and acupuncture until I suffered a serious accident when I fell from my horse after she bolted(I was traveling at a full gallop speed when I fell). Unfortunately I partially dialocated my hip, broke a bunch ribs and 3 vertebra- among a heap of other injuries. I was left with a bad limp which my western drs said would prob remain for life along with partial paralysis and numbness of my whole left leg and half back and their solution to the pain and bad nerve damage I suffered was to try pump me full of pain Meds. I started going to a local Chinese medicine dr who did a course of acupuncture and ba guan. Long story short. 6 mths later I have fully restored nerve function and no limp and no more numbness or paralysis. I also don’t require any pain meds. I go back for ‘maintenance’ every mth or whenever I’m feeling sore.

  • Anonymous

    I’m gad you were able to recover so completely after such a serious injury! Thank you for feeling comfortable enough to share this story with us. Maintenance is definitely appropriate! I wish there was an understanding of that in western countries. Most people want a quick fix and then no return visit to the doctor. We should have ongoing communication with our doctors… sadly, it’s often thought of as a costly burden.

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