Originating in China around 3000 BC, cupping treatment is a form of alternative medicine. It is believed to remove toxins and harmful substances from your body, promoting healing. Ge Hong, a famous Taoist herbalist, was first to practice it between A.D. 281 – 341 while early Egyptians practiced it in 1550 B.C.
What Is Cupping?
Cupping therapy is an alternative medicine in which a practitioner creates a localized suction by placing cups on the skin for several minutes. This suction is believed to cause healing through blood flow, further enhancing a person’s qi flow in the body. Cups are either bamboo, glass, silicone or earthenware and are applied on soft tissue that forms a good seal with the cup’s edge.
Reasons why people engage in cupping are, to relax, to treat inflammation and pain, to increase blood flow and as a sort of deep-tissue massage.
How to Do Cupping – The Process
The main aim of cupping therapy is to relieve pain, boost blood circulation, and aid toxin removal from body tissues. During the process, the tissue underneath is raised and sometimes sucked partially into the cup. Cups may be used by themselves or with acupuncture needles. A cup can be used alone or with several others to affect a larger area.
Cups can remain briefly on your body or for a longer period of time. At times, you might experience a tight sensation around the cup area but this is considered relaxing. Although cupping can take place on any fleshy section of the body, the most commonly cupped area is your back.
Based on your practitioner assessment and your comfort zone, cups may be fixed in place or moved around. The skin may be lubricated to streamline cup movement and treatments vary from person to person, on different days and with distinct professionals.
Types of Cupping Therapy
There are three types of cupping methods commonly used. The preference for a certain method depends on the culture it is being used in, and the practitioner’s preferences.
1. Fire Cupping
In fire cupping therapy, a cotton ball is soaked in alcohol, clamped using forceps, and then lit using a lighter or match. It is then placed into a cup and removed quickly, after which the cup is positioned on your skin. The fire heats up the cups inside, creating suction through low air pressure points. When air within the cup cools down, it contracts, causing the skin to pull inside slightly.
In fire massage, massage oil is applied so that the cups can glide over muscle groups as well as create a better seal. Sometimes, the rupturing of capillaries under your skin can cause dark circles to appear where the cups had been placed.
2. Dry Cupping
Dry cupping therapy is the most popular technique. In it, a small air pressure area is created next to the skin using a variety of methods. The cups used vary in shape from balls to bells ranging from 1-3 inches in size across the opening. Glass and plastic are the most common cup materials used, but rubber cups are also available that adapt easily to bony or uneven surfaces.
A mechanical suction pump acts by creating a vacuum through a valve positioned at the cup’s top. Typically, treatments are not painful, but when cups are removed, skin markings may remain varying from red rings to bruising that causes skin discoloration.
3. Wet Cupping
Also referred to as medicinal bleeding or Hijama, wet cupping is mentioned in Islamic teachings where its first uses are documented. To date, it is widely practiced in Muslim countries and implemented as a popular treatment. In Finland, this cupping therapy is traditionally done in saunas as part of health regimens or for relaxation purposes. It has been in existence since the 15th century.
Wet cupping involves leaving a cup positioned in a certain place, for approximately 3 minutes to create a mild suction. The therapist then removes the cup as they make small, light cuts on your skin with a small scalpel. Next, a small amount of blood is drawn out using a second suction. To prevent infection, an antibiotic ointment is applied and a bandage placed on the cuts.
What Does Cupping Do For the Body?
- Similar to deep tissue massage, it lowers stress and related effects by removing body tension
- Cupping therapy reduces chronic body pain and improves athletic performance by decreasing muscle cramps, stiffness and scar tissue resulting from injuries
- It boosts nutrient delivery and increases oxygen flow by enhancing blood flow within capillaries and vessels
- Cupping treatment boosts skin health, reducing skin inflammation, acne, cellulite and herpes symptoms
- It expands capillaries, improving blood flow thereby firming and toning your skin
- It improves immune system operation by enhancing lymphatic fluid and blood circulation throughout the body
- Cupping clears lung congestion, nourishes lungs and boosts healing from respiratory illnesses
- It improves digestion, reduces and eliminates digestive disorder symptoms
Side Effects of Cupping Therapy
Cupping therapy is usually safe, and pain-free. To ensure cupping side effects are minimized, work with a trained health professional with cupping therapy certification. The side effects are notable where the cup touches your skin and can include the following.
- Mild discomfort including heat and tightness surrounding the cup
- Sweating or nausea
- Burns or skin scarring from cupping marks
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Skin infection
- Slight pain at wet cupping incision sites
- Minor and temporary bruising
- Painless, temporary skin discoloration lasting days to weeks
When to Avoid Cupping Therapy
Though cupping benefits are numerous, the procedure is not advisable for everyone. You should avoid cupping if you
- Have a skin infection, ulcers, inflammation or skin sensitivity
- Are pregnant
- Are menstruating
- Have bleeding disorders or are susceptible to bruising
- Are a child or elderly
- Suffer from internal organ disorders.
Cupping therapy works on several conditions and disorders ranging from cancer to acne. If you’ve tried contemporary medicine and are willing to combine it with alternative medication, check out cupping therapy.
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