Cupping is a type of alternative therapy that originated in China. It involves placing cups on the skin to create suction. The suction may facilitate healing with blood flow.
Many Taoists believe that cupping helps balance yin and yang, or the negative and positive, within the body. Restoring balance between these two extremes is thought to help with the body’s resistance to pathogens as well as its ability to increase blood flow and reduce pain.
Cupping increases blood circulation to the area where the cups are placed. This may relieve muscle tension, which can improve overall blood flow and promote cell repair. It may also help form new connective tissues and create new blood vessels in the tissue. People use cupping to complement their care for a host of issues and conditions.
During a cupping treatment, a cup is placed on the skin and then heated or suctioned onto the skin. The cup is often heated with fire using alcohol, herbs, or paper that’s placed directly into the cup. The fire source is removed, and the heated cup is placed with the open side directly on your skin.
Some modern cupping practitioners have shifted to using rubber pumps to create suction versus more traditional heat methods. When the hot cup is placed on your skin, the air inside the cup cools and creates a vacuum that draws the skin and muscle upward into the cup. Your skin may turn red as the blood vessels respond to the change in pressure.
With dry cupping, the cup is set in place for a set time, usually between 5 and 10 minutes. With wet cupping, cups are usually only in place for a few minutes before the practitioner removes the cup and makes a small incision to draw blood.
Any mild bruising or other marks usually go away within 10 days of the session.
Cupping is sometimes performed along with acupuncture treatments. For best results, you may also want to fast or eat only light meals for two to three hours before your cupping session.
Since the cups can also be applied to major acupressure points, the practice is possibly effective at treating digestive issues, skin issues, and other conditions commonly treated with acupressure.
If you do choose to try cupping as part of your treatment plan, discuss your decision with your doctor. Continue with regular doctor visits related to your condition to get the best of both worlds.
Cupping therapy isn’t recommended for everyone. Extra caution should be taken for the following groups:
Children. Children under 4 years old shouldn’t receive cupping therapy. Older children should only be treated for very short periods.
Seniors. Our skin becomes more fragile as we age. Any medication you may be taking might have an effect as well.
Pregnant people. Avoid cupping the abdomen and lower back.
Those who are currently menstruating.
Don’t use cupping if you use blood-thinning medication. Also avoid cupping if you have:
a skin ulcer
experienced recent trauma
an internal organ disorder