Originally developed over thousands of years ago, the Chinese treatment of cupping therapy has found its way into modern-day medicine. It’s an ancient practice in which small glass or plastic cups are placed on the skin. Suction is then generated using one of two methods: A small fire is created in the cup using a flammable substance such as rubbing alcohol or paper. As soon as the fire goes out, the cup is applied to the skin. As the air cools, it creates a vacuum, causing the skin and underlying muscle to be pulled into the cup. In more modern treatments, cups may have small rubber pumps, which allow the air to be drawn out without using fire.
The ultimate goal of cupping is to enhance circulation, relieve pain, fight fatigue, and release toxins from the body, among many other benefits. While cupping can be performed on its own, it’s frequently combined with acupuncture in a single treatment. A 2012 study published in the journal PLoS ONE found that cupping, when used in conjunction with other traditional Chinese treatments, was far better than anything else at curing those with skin conditions like shingles and acne. It also addressed issues caused by nerve damage, such as facial paralysis.
Over the course of a cupping treatment, cups are typically left on the body for 5 to 15 minutes. Massage oil may be applied in order to allow the cups to be pulled across the skin. During this time, the skin becomes red due to the congestion of blood flow. This discoloration may last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. There may also be some slight bruising, but this shouldn’t be painful. Once the marks have disappeared, the treatment can be repeated until the condition is resolved.
In recent years, even celebrities have been singing its praises. Stars like Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow have been vocal about their devotion to cupping thanks to its relaxation benefits. Chinese swimmer Wang Qun, tennis pro Andy Murray, and many of the players on the Mets have adopted the therapy as a way to relieve soreness and address injuries.
As with most traditional Chinese medicine, cupping treatments are unique to each individual and their current needs. It shouldn’t be used on people who bleed easily or have skin ulcers. While pregnant women can safely undergo cupping, it needs to be performed with extreme caution and never on the abs or the lower back. If you think you may benefit from this therapy, meet with a qualified acupuncturist to create a plan designed specifically for you. Schedule an appointment today!