Cupping Therapy

What is Cupping Therapy?

During Cupping Therapy a mild vacuum is created inside glass 'cups', which are then placed on the skin to provide gentle suction,. The vacuum effect of the cups creates suction that softens tissues and increases the circulation of ki, blood,and fluids. By stimulating the skin and underlying muscles, it helps release area-specific toxins that have accumulated and encourages circulation of both blood and lymph vessels.

Cupping can be used on the neck, shoulders, back, sacral area, hip, abdomen, thigh, upper arms, calves, and in some cases even the forehead or the soles of the feet, depending on the condition. The sensation of cupping is often characterized as deeply warm and relaxing. Many people find it profoundly relaxing. It releases rigid soft tissue and stubborn knots. Contracted, tense and painful muscle tissue will soften quickly with just a few minutes of cupping.

Cupping Therapy has been used for historically not only in China, but also the Middle East, Greece and Russia. Its use is now quite widespread.

Methods of Cupping Therapy

Retained Cupping - The most commonly administered. The cups are applied and left in place for a length of time varying from a few seconds to a number of minutes depending on the treatment protocol, the desired effect and the response of the client.

Momentary cupping - The cups are 'popped' on and off rapidly.

Sliding Cups - Prior to applying the cup, oil may be administered to the skin to create smooth gliding movements. Then the practitioner slides the cup along a large body surface such as the back or thigh until softening of the muscle and connective tissue is observed. Pure massage oils are used to help the cups glide smoothly. Occasionally medicated oils or liniment may also be used.

Other methods - these include combining cupping with acupuncture (inserted needle cupping); combining with bloodletting (prick cupping); Combining with herbal therapies by boiling the cups with herbs, or placing herbs inside the cups.

Types of Cups

Fire Cups

The traditional method of cupping. A small cotton ball is held in locked forceps, and wet with alcohol. The cotton ball is ignited and inserted into the cup which will evacuate some air, creating a vacuum. The cotton ball is withdrawn and the cup is quickly placed on the skin in the chosen area.

Magnetic / Hand Pump

Many modern cupping practitioners use magnetic or hand pumps to create the suction. This has can have several advantages for the practitioner, such as requiring less skill, and no need for flame or flammable liquids. It is also easier to judge the amount of suction being used.

Materials used

Classically, Water buffalo horn was used. However in modern times bamboo, ceramic, glass or plastic cups are used. Plastic cups are becoming more common as they are cheaper. My personal preference is for solid glass cups, as they have a better feel and can withstand more sterilization than most plastic cups. However, glass cups can feel cold

Is cupping painful?

In most cases cupping feels extremely pleasant. Cupping is generally not painful, however some people who suffer from fibromyalgia or other chronic muscular disorders may feel minimal discomfort and should mention it immediately so adjustments can be made.

An experienced practitioner is able to judge the correct amount of suction to use to produce optimal results. Many people report that muscle tension and tenderness continues to improve for many hours after the session is completed.

Can anyone practice cupping?

Cupping therapy is a fairly unregulated field, and although traditionally cupping has been used by lay people, for instance in family environments of a traditional culture, training is always highly recommended. A fully qualified acupuncturist should always be sought.

This ensures a minimum level of skill for proper diagnosis and administration of a correct therapeutic dosage, and is important for safety reasons so as not be be at risk of burns and other injuries or discomforts.

Uses of Cupping Therapy

Cupping is especially effective for chronic pain, tightness, and spasm in the middle to lower back.

It is also very effective to reduce 'stuck' energy in the upper back and shoulders as a result of stress. People find this very relieving and relaxing.

Cupping therapy is widely used to treat conditions such as the common cold, and upper respiratory problems such as asthma, sore muscles, tension, neck pain, joint pain, headaches, backache, abdominal pain, indigestion and Gynaecological conditions.

Cupping may be used to reduce tension and increase relaxation in general, or to treat specific conditions. Usually used for chronic conditions, but may be used for acute flu symptoms.

Cellulite - Massage cupping is also effective in treating cellulite. A light suction provides fluid drainage, while heavier application can be used to stimulate circulation and loosen "dimpling."