FAQs about Cupping
Athletes at the 2016 Olympics made headlines for more than their athletic skills. People everywhere wondered about
those circular, red welts visible on so many backs. For a few weeks, it seemed as though everyone was talking about cupping.
Of course, cupping is nothing new; it dates back thousands of years. Though most frequently associated with Chinese medicine, many cultures across Europe, Asia, Africa, and in recent years the United States, practice cupping therapy as part of a holistic approach to overall health and wellness.
What is Cupping?
In essence, cupping improves energy flow within the body by removing obstructions to that flow, via suction at specific points on the body, commonly called “meridians.”
Throughout history, practitioners used a variety of materials as the “cups,” from animal bones to seashells to ceramics. Today’s healers use cups made from glass, silicone, or rubber. Many healers prefer glass cups, because they allow the practitioner to view the skin during the procedure.
Cupping is sometimes combined with acupuncture or other treatments, depending on the patient’s needs.
How is Cupping Done?
Typically, cupping occurs on the back, at the meridian points along either side of the spine. However, it may also occur on the abdomen, arms, and legs. For example, if the patient complains of sciatica, the healer places the cups on the lower back and the affected leg.
The two main methods for cupping both involve suction. In one, the healer applies a small flame to a glass cup, creating a vacuum. When applied to the skin, this vacuum sucks the skin into the cup. In the other method, the practitioner uses a cup with an elastic knob that he or she pumps to create the vacuum. Both methods are fairly common in North America.
The healer may also increase stimulation of the skin by using a cream to improve circulation before applying the cups.
Once the cups are applied, the healer leaves them in place for up to 30 minutes. Discoloration that looks like bruising often occurs. This is not painful, though patients sometimes report feeling uncomfortable.
Wet cupping involves pricking the skin, often through acupuncture needles, which allows the release of toxins and other harmful substances, including those which accumulate due to repeated cupping sessions.
One final method is a cupping massage, which uses a suction cup with a pump. The practitioner applies massage oil and then slowly glides the cup along the skin. This technique is especially effective at treating back pain and muscle spasms. However, it is more painful that traditional cupping, and only lasts for a few minutes.
What are the Marks and Discolorations Cupping Causes?
Many people assume the marks left by cupping are bruises. This is not accurate, as bruising occurs after an impact trauma, and cupping is not an impact trauma. However, like bruising, cupping causes a rush of fluid to the treatment area, including toxins. The accumulation of these fluids causes the discoloration common to cupping.
This “bruising” can be seen as proof of the treatment’s effectiveness at drawing these harmful toxins from the body. In addition, patients typically see less discoloration with future cupping sessions. The marks disappear within a few days.
What can Cupping Treat?
Cupping stimulates the skin, muscles, and blood and lymph vessels. It also helps improve organ function via stimulation of the reflex zones of the skin that relate to the organs. Cupping also helps release toxins. All of these benefits help treat:
- Back pain
- Chronic pain
- Migraines and headaches
- Muscle spasms
- Respiratory problems
- Rheumatic pain
In addition, cupping helps improve the immune and digestive systems.
What are the Benefits of Cupping?
Cupping offers patients four main benefits:
- Like acupuncture, cupping improves the flow of life energy throughout the body, by stimulating energy collection points to improve overall wellness.
- By drawing blood to the area, cupping loosens and relaxes muscles.
- By loosening and relaxing muscles, cupping eases pain and increases flexibility and mobility.
- Most practitioners create a soothing environment for their patients, through music, lighting, and aromatherapy. Combined with cupping therapy, this creates a highly relaxed feeling for the patient, even as he or she receives treatment.
What are the Side Effects of Cupping?
There are few side effects in cupping, so long as a trained professional performs it. In addition to the red marks cupping leaves behind, patients may experience some discomfort during treatment.
Some materials are flammable, and therefore may cause a burn. After wet cupping, failure to properly treat the punctures may cause infection.
For some patients, cupping may worsen the condition it was meant to treat, such as muscle spasms. Finally, avoid cupping treatments anywhere you can feel a pulse or over an ulcer.
If you’re interested in learning more about cupping, or ready to book your first session, contact us today. We’ll explain the procedure, discuss treatment options, and answer any questions you have.