What is Cupping?

Cupping therapy is the method of using glass or plastic cups to create localized pressure by a vacuum. The Chinese have been doing this since ancient times by using heat inside glass or bamboo cups. Nowadays, cupping sets use suction to create a vacuum. The vacuum inside the cups causes blood to form in the area and helps the healing in that area.

Practitioners of Ancient Chinese medicine believe that the body contains “Meridians”. These meridians are pathways in the body that the energy of life called Qi (“chi”) flows through. It flows through every body part, tissue, and organ. Cupping therapy is mainly performed on one’s back because there are five meridians on your back. When these meridians are opened, the internal energy is able to flow through the whole body.

Another healing aspect of cupping therapy is the release of toxins in your body. The suction from the cups can penetrate deep into your tissues causing the tissues to release harmful toxins. It triggers the lymphatic system, clears the blood vessels, and stretches and activates the skin.

Cupping therapy has been found in ancient records dating back 3500 years and it is still used today by many alternative medicine practitioners. New advancements in technology and materials have been integrated with cupping therapies and its uses now have a wide range of different treatments and applications.

What Does Cupping Treat?

  • Constipation, IBS, diarrhea
  • Headaches
  • Arthritis
  • Fatigue
  • Sciatica
  • Skin Problems
  • Period cramps
  • Weight problems

How Does Cupping Therapy Work?

Cupping therapy works by reducing the pain we feel in our bodies. In alternative medicine, pain is believed to be caused by problems relating to your Qi flow. This can be related to stress in the body, imbalances of hormones and fluids, lack of blood flow, and temperature in the muscles and joints. When a suction cup is placed on a problem area, the vacuum pull of the cup creates warmth and circulation in the area. Very soon, you will feel that the pain is reduced.

In Chinese medicine, all the organs are connected together. So if you have a problem with one organ, it can affect the health of other parts of your body. For example, it is believed that the kidneys are connected to a person’s aging. A person with an imbalance or disease in the kidneys will experience more graying of the hair, wrinkled and dry skin, etc.

Does Cupping Hurt?

If you have never had cupping before, it can feel a little strange the first time the cups are put on. The sensation should be tight but not painful. The traditional method of cupping involved burning the oxygen from the inside of a glass cup with a flame before quickly placing it on the skin, but nowadays plastic pump suction cups are often easier to use and work in the same manner. However, experienced patients normally report that the sensation during treatment simply feels as if something or someone is tugging at their skin. There are apparently no reports of pain.

Types of Cupping Therapy

There are four main categories of cupping performed today:

  • Dry cupping is probably the method most often employed. A slight vacuum will be created in the cup either by heating the cup directly, using a pump to draw out the air and create a vacuum or holding the open end near a flame. After the cup is placed on the skin, the cooling air draws the skin up. Another variation is flash cupping that involves quick, repeated suction and release of cups on an area of the body.
  • Wet cupping is also called Hijama. After using dry cupping for up to 5 minutes, the therapist will make small incisions in the area. The sterilized one-time use cup is prepared once again and applied to the affected area. Blood will be drawn out of the body in the vacuum.
  • Massage cupping (also known as glide cupping) involves moving the cup over the affected area, such as the back, to combine both massage and cupping, this effectively causes a myofascial release.
  • Needle cupping uses acupuncture needles in conjunction with the cup. The acupuncture needle will be inserted into the flesh first, with the cup being placed over the needle immediately afterwards.

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