What is all the hype about cupping therapy?
One of the latest trends on the red carpet has been cupping therapy. Celebrities such as Jennifer Aniston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Lady Gaga, and Victoria Beckham all have been photographed with large circular cupping marks on their backs sparking the curiosities of their fans. Due to this, many patients have been asking about cupping and its benefits, so I have decided it would be a good time to post some info on cupping.
How is cupping done?
The therapy of cupping has been used in China for thousands of years. At first it was applied using hollowed out cattle horns. Eventually the original horn method was replaced by bamboo, ceramic and then glass cups. In the beginning cupping therapy was widely used as a folk remedy but now the technique has been inherited by the modern practitioner.
It is interesting to note that there are records of ancient Egyptian and Greek doctors using cupping therapy. Even the ancient Greek physicians Galen and Hippocrates were great advocates of cupping.
Nowadays there are many different types of cupping methods including; electromagnet cupping, portable cupping pumps, screw-top cups, valve cups, cups with squeeze rubber tops, rubber or silicon cups and bamboo cups. However, most practitioners prefer using the fire-cupping technique with glass cups. From a practical stand point, glass cups are easy to use, to sterilize, and the practitioner can observe the progress of suction inside the cup.
*Please remember DO NOT try this at home. This technique is for trained practitioners only.*
Fire-cupping is preformed by creating suction or negative pressure inside the glass cup by introducing a flame into the cup. The practitioner will safely hold a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol with a pair of long forceps and light it. The practitioner then briefly introduces the flame into the cup and quickly places the cup on the desired location on the skin. The hot air within the cup creates the negative pressure and suction of the skin is achieved.
The practitioner might leave the cup in one spot and add several other cups, this is called stationary cupping. Other times the practitioner might use a method called moving cupping in which one or two cups are placed on the skin and moved along the skin's surface.
What is cupping therapy good for?
The primary objective of cupping therapy is to move Qi and Blood and remove Stagnation of any kind from the body. Recent studies have show that cupping therapy has many benefits including:
Skin-increases blood circulation
-promotes metabolism in the skin tissue
-better functioning sweat and sebaceous glands
-removal of toxic substances form the skins surface
Muscles-expands the blood vessels in the muscles to facilitate the flow blood and lymph thus moving any stagnant blood due to injury or overuse therefore reducing pain, swelling, muscle spasm
Joints-promotes better flow of blood and synovial fluids in and to the joints helping to reduce swelling and pain due to injury or arthritis
Digestive System-stimulates the inside of the organs, their peristaltic movement, and the secretion of digestive fluids thus strengthening the digestive function and absorption of nutrients
-strengthens the muscles of the respiratory organs
Blood-promotes blood circulation and decreases any blood stagnation thus decreasing inflammation and pain
-influences the composition of the blood by increasing the red and white blood cells, changes acidic blood to alkaline or neutral leading to blood purification
Nervous System-stimulates the sensory nerves of the skin
-stimulates the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems creating an overall well being
What to expect during and after a cupping therapy?
During the treatment the patient should experience a pulling, stretching, warming sensation on the skin, but not pain. If the cupping is too uncomfortable, please tell your practitioner.
After cupping therapy, the patient will most likely have slight bruising or ring-marks at the site of the treatment. The extent of the bruising depends on the length and strength of the treatment session. The bruising usually fades with a few days but may last up to a week or two. The bruising will usually appear worst after the first treatment but as the circulation improves and stagnation is removed with each treatment, the bruising will decrease.
After treatment, it is normal to feel a little light-headed and some thirst. It is important for the patient to take their time when getting up from the treatment table and to drink some water directly after treatment. In the winter, it is important to stay warm and cover after treatment because the pores are open and susceptible to external pathogens directly after a cupping session.
Check out this interesting video on cupping by fellow acupuncturist Eric Kerr: