At times, I will use other traditional treatment techniques, in addition to shiatsu. Each of these techniques can be used as a stand-alone to comprise the entire treatment session, however, in general I apply them complementary to shiatsu.
An excellent means to supplement warmth and light, and thereby energy, or to dispel cold, moxibustion therapy utilizes smoldering moxa (dried herbs with heating properties) to warm the skin, muscles, and acupoints. Moxa sticks, cigar-like cylinders of compressed herbs, are often used; other forms include moxa cones to be placed directly on the skin, and wooden boxes with a fine grating upon which loose moxa is ignited and that can be used to warm larger areas of the body such as the belly or back. Moxibustion therapy can help soften achy muscles and joints or stimulate invigorating acupoints, and is almost invariably experienced as beneficent.
In cupping, a treatment technique that can be highly effective in breaking up stagnations, vacuum suction cups are placed on the skin. Depending on the nature of the complaint, the therapist may opt for either dynamic cupping, where oil is applied to the skin so the cup can be pushed along the skin, or static cupping, where one or more cups are left sitting for a while before they are removed.
This technique is primarily used where there is pain due to stagnation, or to open up the skin prior to applying cupping therapy. A plum blossom needle, or seven star needle, is a small hammer-like implement with seven little metal spikes at its head, that is rapped rapidly to the skin. This may feel a bit odd, sometimes a bit painful, but afterwards you will find it brings relief.
Often, guasha is used to disperse stagnations: where tension has lodged in the muscles or meridians, treatment with guasha may help release that tension. The skin is oiled locally, then scraped firmly with a scraping implement to open up the skin and draw out the stagnation. This manifests as clusters of tiny scarlet or purple spots that will fade within a couple of days or weeks. The more treatments you have undergone, the less intense the scraping will be and the less vividly colored the skin will be afterwards.
Guasha can also be used to nourish, by stimulating the meridians. The technique is the same, but the scraping is much gentler and there will be little or no redness of the skin.