Cupping: The Basics of an Ancient Chinese Technique

cupping therapy

Cupping: The Basics of an Ancient Chinese Technique

Cupping is a bodywork technique that utilizes a glass or plastic cup or bamboo jar that is suctioned onto the body and allowed to sit for about 10 minutes or is moved around with oil used for lubrication. This technique stimulates circulation and relieves swelling—and it can be used alone or to enhance other treatments, such as acupuncture.


Uses for Cupping

Cupping is used for many conditions including:

  • Back pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Neck pain
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Common cold
  • Influenza
  • Cough
  • Asthma

"The cupping method has the function of warming and promoting the free flow of qi and blood in the meridians, dispelling cold dampness, diminishing swellings and pains," according to Cheng Xinnong in his book, Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion.


How Cupping Is Performed

The suction created during a cupping procedure penetrates deep into one's tissues and can help the release of toxins from the body. Cupping therapy is most commonly done on one's back. There are several yang meridians on the back which are stimulated by the cupping therapy, allowing the internal energy to flow throughout the whole body.

The two most common ways of suctioning the cups to the body are "fire" cupping and manual suction cupping. To do fire cupping, the practitioner will light an alcohol soaked cotton ball on fire and briefly place the fire inside the glass cup, creating a vacuum. Then, he or she will quickly place the cup on the skin. The amount of suction can then be adjusted by sliding or moving the cup. Manual suction cups use a pump to create the vacuum between the cup and the soft tissue.

Cupping can leave marks on the skin, indicating the stagnation or disease has been moved from the deeper tissue layers to the surface, aiding in the healing process. The marks from a cupping treatment can range anywhere from light pink to dark purple circles. It is rare for these "bruises" to be painful, and they typically dissipate in a few days.


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