Cupping photo

Photo courtesy: Bob Wong Art of Acupuncture

What is Cupping?

Cupping is an ancient Chinese healing practice dating back over 2000 years ago. It is a part of the overall practice of Chinese Medicine. Practitioners of Chinese Medicine use cupping therapy in conjunction with other treatment approaches, such as acupuncture or herbs, but may also apply cupping therapy as a standalone treatment for certain conditions.
Cupping involves the use of small glass jars or plastic suction devices that are placed on specific parts of the body, usually along the meridians used in Chinese Medicine. The cups are applied in different ways depending on the specific cups being used, or the location on the body. When using glass jars the practitioner will create a vacuum within using a burning cotton ball swabbed in alcohol (often referred to as fire cupping). The burning cotton ball is quickly inserted into and removed from the cup, which is then placed directly on the body. In contrast, plastic suction cups do not require the use of heat. Rather, these cups are placed directly on the specific body part, and a hand-grip device creates the suction effect. These types of cups are ideal for difficult to reach places, or portions of the body that do not provide an ideal surface for fire cupping.
In some instances the practitioner will apply an oil or liniment to the body prior to applying the cup. This allows for deeper penetration of a healing liniment and the ability to move the cups along a meridian, rather than keeping them stationary (referred to as gliding cupping).
Does Cupping Hurt?
Once applied, the vacuum causes the underlying skin and muscle to be drawn up into the cup. Patients often report the feeling as relaxing, especially after the cups are removed. The effect is not too dissimilar to a “reverse” massage. Instead of pressing deeply into the muscles, however, the area is pulled up and out. Cups are typically left in place for no more than 5-10 minutes in a single location.
After the cups are removed patients typically report immediate improvement in symptoms in the case of musculoskeletal conditions, or improved symptoms within the next 24 hours post-treatment for other conditions.
After removing the cups, patients will typically have darkened circular patches where the cups were retained. It is important to note that these are not bruises. Rather, cupping therapy invokes the release of blood through capillary beds, but is not damaging the blood vessels as is the case with a bruise.
These circular patches may be sensitive to the touch following treatment, but should not be painful. However, patients will be instructed to contact with certain aggravating factors for the 12-24 hours following treatment including avoiding drafts or cold directed to the treated area, avoiding showering, and keeping the area covered.
Depending on the nature of the condition being treated, length of time the cups are retained, and the degree of stagnation present, the circular patches will last 3-5 days, with 7-8 days not being uncommon.
What Does Cupping Therapy Treat?
In the view of Chinese Medicine, cupping therapy assists with the movement of qi and blood (when these are not moving they are referred to as stagnation or stasis). When these substances are not moving freely through the meridians of the body, there will be pain and illness.
Often cupping therapy is applied in conjunction with other modalities, most typically in concert with an acupuncture treatment. However, cupping can be done on its own with great results.
While there are a host of ailments for which cupping can be used, the most common include:
  • At the initial stages of a cold
  • For local musculoskeletal pain (stiff neck, sore low back, etc)
  • Upper respiratory conditions such as bronchitis, asthma and allergies
  • Depression
  • Gastrointestinal pain
Schedule your appointment today if you would like to experience the healing benefits of cupping therapy or just want to see how cupping will benefit you. You’ve nothing to lose, and your health to gain!