Cupping is a therapeutic modality in which special types of cups are placed onto the skin. Suction is created either using fire, or suction cups to create a vacuum onto the skin. The skin and underlying tissues are drawn up into the cups and left on the skin for some time. The cups are usually made of glass, but they can also be made from silicon, clay, horn, or bamboo.
Cupping therapy has been used for thousands of years in many cultures traditional medical practices. It helps to increase blood and Qi flow to a specific area while stimulating metabolic cellular repair and speeding healing and recovery times. It is a great practice to help reduce pain from past injuries as well. Looking for a more detailed scientific understanding of this modality- check out this article!
There two main types of cupping- Fire and Suction cups. Fire cupping is a modality in which a small flame is placed into the cup to create a suction, and then the warmed cup is placed onto the skin. Suction cups employ a small mechanical pump onto silicon cups to create the vacuum tension desired.
Some techniques that may be applied are stationary cupping, slide cupping, flash cupping, medicinal herbal cupping or wet cupping. Each type of cupping is used for a specific condition.
Stationary cupping is just that- the cup is placed on the desired area, or point upon the body and then left there for a specific amount of time.
Slide cupping is a technique in which some sort of massage lotion or herbal liniment is placed onto the skin and the cups are moved along the skin. This is a very relaxing technique that feels like a deep tissue massage.
Flash cupping is a technique in which the cups are quickly suctioned onto the skin and then removed over and over again.
Medicinal cupping is a technique in which bamboo cups are soaked in hot herbal broths, after they cool slightly they are then placed onto the skin with the fire cupping modality.
Wet cupping is a technique in which a small lancet is used to prick the skin before the glass cup is placed onto the area. This promotes a small amount of blood to be released into the cup and it is thought to help remove internal pathogens, blood stasis and pain.
The cups leave circular marks upon the skin, that range from a light pink to a deep purple depending upon whats going on beneath the skin. These markings are different from bruises, as bruises are marks of broken blood vessels beneath the skin, whereas the marks from cupping is referred to as “Sha”. It is actually petechiae, and this process is thought to release unhealthy and stagnated blood from the muscles, in hope to improve blood and lymph flow.
Cupping marks heal differently than bruises, as bruises turn from purple to red to yellow as it fades and heals, while the cupping marks will slowly fade to a lighter and lighter shade of pink. The marks may be slightly tender in the beginning but they will not hurt when touched like a bruise. It is important to keep cupping marks covered for a few days after the treatment, especially from wind and cold.
What Is Cupping Used For?
Cupping is a very versatile technique that is usually used in conjunction with acupuncture or massage. It is great for pain relief as it helps to loosen connective tissue and fascia while promoting blood and lymph flow and reducing inflammation. Studies have shown a great improvement in pain levels for chronic neck and shoulder pain. It also feels great and can help promote deep states of relaxation and shed away layers of stress and anxiety. Cupping can also help to remove toxin build up and stagnated water from the lungs helping to improve respiratory health. It is a non-invasive and safe technique good for all ages.
What Does Cupping Treat?
Respiratory disorders including asthma, cough, and congestion
Pain (both chronic and acute conditions)
Digestive complaints such as constipation
Anxiety and relaxation
Cautions and Contraindications
If you are taking Blood thinning medication
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-Al-Bedah AMN, Elsubai IS, Qureshi NA, et al. The medical perspective of cupping therapy: Effects and mechanisms of action. Journal of traditional and complementary medicine. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6435947/. Published April 30, 2018. Accessed April 16, 2019.
-Chi L-M, Lin L-M, Chen C-L, Wang S-F, Lai H-L, Peng T-C. The Effectiveness of Cupping Therapy on Relieving Chronic Neck and Shoulder Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4814666/. Published 2016. Accessed April 16, 2019.