Cupping therapy is one of the oldest modalities in Eastern Medicine, specifically used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In Ancient times hollowed animal horns were used as the cupping devices, in modern times cups are made out of plastic, rubber or glass. Cupping therapy works by creating a negative pressure or vacuum in the cup that effectively draws the skin and muscle into it. Drawing up the skin is believed to open up the skin’s pores, which helps to stimulate circulation, balance and realign the flow of qi/energy, clear blockage, and create a pathway for toxins to be drawn out of the body. The negative pressure or vacuum can be created by either a flame or a suction device depending on what type of cupping you are receiving.
Dry cupping typically uses glass cups, a vacuum is created using a cotton ball or other flammable substance, which is soaked in alcohol, then placed inside the cup. Burning a substance inside the cup removes all the oxygen, which creates the vacuum.
Air cupping uses a suction pump to create the vacuum instead of using a flame. The cup is applied to the skin, and a suction pump is attached to the rounded end of the jar. The pump is then used to create the vacuum.
Wet cupping involves puncturing the skin before the treatment. When the cup is applied and the skin is drawn up, a small amount of blood may flow from the puncture site, which is believed to help remove harmful substances and toxins from the body, as well as promote circulation.
Sliding cupping is when the cups are applied to skin that has a lotion applied on it as well. The lotion provides a slick consistency and allows the cup to move across the fleshy areas of the body providing a massage like experience.
Stationary cups are left in place for five to ten minutes and several cups can be put in place simultaneously.
While cupping is considered relatively safe (especially air cupping, which does not include the risk of fire), it can cause some swelling and bruising on the skin. As the skin under a cup is drawn up, the blood vessels at the surface of the skin expand. This may result in small, circular bruises on the areas where the cups were applied. These bruises are usually painless and disappear within a few days of treatment.
In addition, there are several instances where cupping should not be performed. Patients with inflamed skin; cases of high fever or convulsions; and patients who bleed easily, are not suitable candidates for cupping. Pregnant women should not have cupping on their stomach or lower back. If the cups are being moved, they should not cross bony areas, such as the ridges of the spine or the shoulder blades.
Cupping is utilized for symptoms of physical pain and many respiratory disorders like bronchitis, asthma and general congestion. Arthritis and gastrointestinal disorders may also benefit by cupping therapy.
Cupping therapy is a foundation modality that is taught in all Oriental Medical Schools across the country. If you want to try authentic cupping therapy please locate a board certified oriental medicine practitioner in your area.