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What is Cupping Therapy?

What is Cupping Therapy?

Cupping is an ancient Chinese therapy in which a cup is applied to the skin and the pressure in the cup is reduced (either by heat or suction) in order to draw and hold skin and superficial muscles inside the cup. Sometimes, while the suction is active, the cup is moved, causing the skin and muscle to be pulled. This is called gliding cupping.

Cupping is based on the meridian theory of the body. On one hand, cupping removes any stagnation in the body and opens the meridians so that qi can flow freely. On the other, it also helps to rejuvenate certain meridians and organs that are not functioning at their best. From a scientific standpoint, cupping is known to help activate the lymphatic system, promote blood circulation, and is good for deep tissue repair.  

The Cupping Process:

Glass cups are generally used for cupping, although bamboo cups are also used. Glass cups are fitted with a valve that attaches to a small hand-operated pump, allowing the practitioner to suck out air without having to rely on fire to depressurize the cup first. It also gives them greater control over the amount of suction. In order to allow the cups to move over the skin easily, oil is used. Oils that have been infused with extracts of medicinal herbs are particularly useful. The cups are applied at room temperature, and there is some friction generated with moving cups, causing a small but significant amount of heat, especially if warming oil is also used.

Cups are generally left in place for ten minutes although the time can range from five to fifteen minutes. The skin will redden due to the congestion of blood flow. The cup is removed from the skin by pressing the skin on one side, allowing some outside air to enter and thus equalize the pressure. Some bruising on the skin where the rim of the cup is to be expected.  

What Cupping Can Help:

Cupping is generally recommended for the treatment of pain, gastrointestinal disorders, lung diseases (especially chronic cough and asthma), and paralysis, although it does have application for other problems. Cupping should be done on fleshy areas of the body and should not be used on inflamed skin, where there is a high fever, convulsions or an increased tendency to bruise, or on the abdominal or lower back area during pregnancy. The cups should only be moved over fleshy areas of the body.

Cupping is an ancient Chinese therapy and is used to relieve acute and chronic pain. Glass or plastic cups are applied on various points of muscular parts of the body and is used to relieve muscular tension, stiffness, lung conditions and winter colds. The after effect of this treatment can be very relaxing.

The use of cupping in Traditional Chinese Medicine is to improve the circulation of both energy (Qi) and blood (xue), it can also improve lymph circulation.

After the cups have been applied, there may be some purple marks left on the skin, they can last up to a week, this confirms the area has deep seated blood stagnation.

Cupping can help with other conditions:

  • Menstruation pain
  • Muscle tension and spasm
  • Neck tension and shoulder pain
  • Lower back pain
  • Lung disease (Cough and asthma)
  • Cold and flu
  • Stimulate and clear veins and improve the appearance of varicose veins
  • Clear toxins
  • Migraines

Gliding cupping

Oil is first applied to the area usually the back, once the suction has occurred the cups can be gently moved across the skin. The suction in the cups causes the skin and superficial muscle layer to be lightly drawn into the cup. For most patients this is a particularly relaxing and relieving sensation. No pain should be felt.

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