Bloodletting

As explained last week, gua sha is a form of AOM treatment that primarily creates bleeding subcutaneously to aid in the moving and release of many types of pathogens. This week, I'm blogging about another blood related therapy, bloodletting, which purposefully causes the patient to bleed to release pathogens. This may seem a bit horrific, but it rarely hurts and offers significant healing benefits.  

Bloodletting is an ancient form of AOM treatment. It produces one or many punctures to the skin allowing blood to be released. The discharge of blood releases pathogens such as trauma, heat, cold, stagnation, and deficiency (under certain conditions). Bloodletting improves circulation and qi flow in addition to many other benefits.

2012-11-05_finger

There are many forms of bloodletting. One form of bloodletting includes using either an acupuncture needle or a lancet to puncture the skin. Upon extraction of the needle, bleeding occurs (as pictured on the finger). At times, bleeding occurs naturally after needle extraction. If bloodletting is indicated, but does not occur naturally, the practitioner may apply pressure to aid in the discharge of blood. This form of bloodletting is indicated for many conditions. Some conditions include heat rash, common cold, respiratory illness, GI pathology, mental or emotional disorder, and more.

2012-11-05_tool

Another form of bloodletting occurs from using a plum blossom (pictured) or seven start tool. The patient's skin is quickly pricked repeatedly using the tool. While the tool looks like something out of a medieval movie, this procedure is often painless. Most patients have reported feeling a tapping or tickling sensation. After the repeated pricks, a small amount of bleeding often occurs. This therapy is useful for many conditions. I have seen it used most for trauma and reducing hypertension.

The last form of bloodletting I'm going to discuss is bloodletting through cupping. As discussed in previous blogs, traditionally cupping uses glass cups that are heated momentarily with fire to create suction on the patient's body. The fire is placed momentarily into the cup using a hemostat and cotton ball. The fire is removed quickly and the cup is placed on the body. The temporary heating of the cup creates a vacuum on the body.

Cupping can be transitioned into bloodletting in several ways. One way is to apply acupuncture to the patient, often on the patient's back. After needle extraction, cups are applied.  A second option is to plum blossom the area first, instead of using acupuncture needles. The vacuum from the cups draws blood to the surface.

Clinically, I have found areas of the body that contain acupuncture points most related to the patient's diagnosis manifest with the most productive bloodletting. For example, if a patient is diagnosed with excess stomach heat, the fire point on the stomach channel typically discharges the most blood. By releasing the blood, the body is clearing the excess heat.

2012-11-05_cupping

Above is a picture of a patient's back showing the result of bloodletting through cupping. The patient had acupuncture needles extracted in all areas where cups had been placed. The red circles indicate where the cups had been placed. The cups create sha, much like gua sha. The patient bled in the region of the point that mostly pertained to the patient's diagnosis. The patient reported feeling much better post treatment.