What is cupping?
Cupping is a type of alternative therapy that originated in China. It involves placing cups on the skin to create suction. The suction facilitates healing with blood flow, as well as the flow of “qi” in the body. Qi is a Chinese word meaning life force.
Cupping increases blood circulation to the area where the cups are placed. This can relieve muscle tension, which can improve overall blood flow and promote cell repair. It can 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 ailments and conditions.
What should I expect during a cupping treatment?
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 are 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.
After the cups are removed, the practitioner may cover the previously cupped areas with ointment and bandages. This helps prevent infection. Any 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 2 to 3 hours before your cupping session.
What are the different types of cupping?
Cupping was originally performed using animal horns. Later the “cups” were made from bamboo and then ceramic. The suction was primarily created through the use of heat. The cups were originally heated with fire and then applied to the skin. As they cooled, the cups drew the skin inside.
Modern cupping is often performed using glass cups that are rounded like balls and open on one end. There are two main categories of cupping performed today:
dry cupping, which is a suction-only method
wet cupping, which may involve both suction and controlled medicinal bleeding