5 Complementary Health Modalities You’ve Probably Never Heard About

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

You may be familiar with many of the more commonplace complementary health modalities. However, some are less well-known than others. These are all available in Western New York.


1. Cupping

What it is: A heated glass cup is applied to the skin. The heat allows the cup to form a vacuum on the skin.

How it’s used: “I use it most for people who are healthy but have an acute injury, like athletes,” said Ariel Wachowiak, licensed acupuncturist, diplomate of oriental medicine, Chinese medicine practitioner and owner of Northeast Integrative Medicine in Buffalo.

Some athletes use cupping to shorten recovery time between workouts.

Why it’s used: “The suction creates a healing response, like acupuncture,” she added.

It is thought that the suction stimulates blood flow to help heal the minor trauma caused by the cup. This hastens the recovery of the injury in question.

Caveats: “Downsides of cupping is people are depleted and that’s where their health issues are stemming from. Cupping can be a little too powerful and draining for a lot of constitutions.”

Cupping also leaves circular bruise marks on the skin.

2. Gua Sha

What it is: “It’s taking a tool, a gua sha, a Chinese soup spoon and scraping it against an oiled area of skin,” Wachowiak said.

It is thought that the tool scrapes away dead skin cells and stimulates blood flow to promote recovery from injuries to deeper tissue.

How it’s used: “It is good for someone in good health, like an athlete, who has pain. The direction varies on the person. We think about energy flow. If we’re going to work on someone’s shoulder and neck area, we might go towards the head to bring energy up or towards the feet, if we’re bringing energy down. It could be both types of energy, emotional or physical.”

Why it’s used: “Similar to cupping and Chinese medical massage, it is going to create a healing response by bringing blood flow to the area.”

Caveats: “The person has to have robust health or this will overwhelm their system. It’s a delicate balance between addressing a problem and supporting their overall health and constitution. We don’t want to drain them away; that will negative impact on them.”

3. Moxibustion

What it is: “It is the burning of mugwort,” said Stephen Sedita, licensed acupuncturist with NeuroloQi Acupuncture in Rochester. “In Chinese medicine, there are different ‘flavors’ of medicine. The moxa or mugwort puts ‘hot’ energy back in the body. Moxa is one of the few ways to add energy.”

How it’s used: “It’s only mugwort and only the heat is released,” Sedita said. “It’s not aromatherapy. We have smokeless moxa. It’s charcoal version of it. It comes in a stick like a cigar and you hold it over the point you’re working on. It doesn’t touch the skin.

Why it’s used: It is used to address “pain, digestive issues and in some cases, to calm emotions. From the Chinese medicine side of things, it is used for heat deficiency, which can manifest in many different ways, like infertility and chronic pain.”

Caveats: “If someone has a loss of their ability to feel temperature, you wouldn’t want to use it because you wouldn’t want to burn someone.”

4. Biofield Tuning

What it is: The practitioner uses tuning forks of specific frequencies near a client lying on a table, fully clothed.

How it’s used: “As you go through life and have difficult or traumatic events—everything from you’re 5 and moving and won’t see your best friend again to really major accidents and injuries—some of the energy in the event is held in the energy field around the body and it ties up your life force,” said Carol McCoon, licensed massage therapist at Wheeler Healthy U in East Rochester. “If you’re 40, 50, 60 years old, all these events are tying up your lifeforce.”

Why it’s used: People who seek it often feel they have little energy or motivation or are recovering from a major health issue.

“After multiple sessions, more and more of their lifeforce is returned to their body and is available for the body’s natural healing ability,” McCoon said.

Caveats: It is contraindicated for people who are pregnant, in the middle of cancer treatments or who are severely obese.

5. Eminus Mirus (EM) Energy Medicine

What it is: “It’s like a request, asking the universal chi—the energy available to all of us—to examine and find and address what might be causing problems,” McCoon said.

How it’s used: “Let’s say a child has a recurring strep throat,” she said. “With the EM request, the strep bacteria are eliminated from the body.”

Why it’s used: “It can be used to address almost anything,” McCoon said. “It supports a person’s health for many different diseases.”

Caveats: “Similar to tuning, there are people who should not have it, like those who are pregnant or undergoing chemotherapy or radiation. It’s used in conjunction with and not instead of Western medicine.”