Gua Sha literally means "scraping sand". While this may sound strange, it is in fact a very beneficial part of healing and is great for stiff and achy muscles. The "scraping" or "gua" part simply means using a ceramic spoon (or another instrument made of bone or even stone) to drag across or scrape the skin over muscular areas of the body. While often used on the back for tight or painful muscles, it can be used on other areas of the body, too. The "sand" or "sha" part refers to the redness that occurs after scraping only if there is some sort of stagnation in that area. The darker the sha, the longer the condition has been present. While it may not look very pretty, the sha usually disappears in a few days or so and isn't painful.
Gua sha is wonderful for tight, painful muscles (especially the neck and upper back/shoulder) as well as at the onset of the common cold (what we call an external invasion) to help get rid of it quickly. Don't be afraid of the name...it really is good for you!
Cupping is an ancient practice which uses special glass (or plastic) cups that are applied to the skin by suction and left in place in order to "draw out" stagnation or open up blockages in the meridians. Some practitioners use what is called "fire cupping". Fire cupping uses a source of fire (usually an alcohol soaked cotton ball) to heat the inside of a glass cup which is then immediately placed on the skin creating a vacuum (and suction) to hold the cup in place. Others use the more modern technique of a pump attached to a nozzle on the cup to create the suction. Either way, the results are going to be beneficial!
Cupping is often used on the muscles of the back for pain, and like gua sha, you will often find a circular reddish/purple mark left on the skin after the cups have been removed. This discoloration is not painful and usually resolves in a few days. The longer the stagnation has been present, the deeper the color will be. Cupping is also used for other types of pain, occipital headaches and during the first stages of the common cold (aka external invasion) to "release the exterior" and help you to feel better quickly.