Cupping: What Is It And What Does It Do?
Have you ever seen some athletes or celebrities or just some acquaintance on the beach with perfect red or dark purple circles on their back and wonder "what happened to them?" One of my patients told me that when he showed these marks to his grandson, the boy thought that he was injured. And then my patient explained to his grandson and said, “don’t worry, it is just cupping therapy for my back pain and it helps”.
What Is Cupping Therapy?
Cupping therapy has been used alongside acupuncture and herbal practice as a technique as part of holistic treatment. It's application involves the use of small glass cups or bamboo jars as suction devices which apply suction to the surface of the body. The action of creating a partial vacuum draws up the skin, stimulating blood circulation in the underlying musculature. It breaks up stagnation and congestion by drawing congested blood, energy or other humors to the surface. In dry cupping, the therapist will simply place the suction cups on the skin. In wet cupping, the practitioner will make a small incision on the skin and then apply the suction cup to draw out small amounts of blood.
What are those circles?
Cupping typically leaves a mark varying in color from light pink to dark purple which depends on the amount of what we call "blood stagnation" that is occurring in our patient.Blood stagnation is a common source of pain which can occur anywhere in the body. When the blood isn't flowing properly it collects, and without natural movement it can't nourish the muscles and joints which can result in pain. Cupping helps to restore the free movement of blood and helps to soften tension, allowing your body to heal itself.
What is cupping supposed to do?
Cups can also be used in different ways and on different parts of the body. They can be left stationary to treat isolated muscle groups or they can be used with massage oil or lotion, and moved over a larger surface such as the back. This technique of "sliding cups”.
In addition to relieving muscle pain and tension, cupping can be used for internal medicine for digestive or gynecological disorders or problems of the lungs and skin. It helps to flush out toxins from the body, so if you have had cupping therapy done, make sure to drink plenty of water afterwards. [Read more: How much water should I drink? Understanding Water energy with TCM]
Cupping has also been used for
cough and dyspnea
improving immune function.
Are there risks involved with cupping?
Most experts agree that cupping is safe. As long as those treated don’t mind the circular discolorations (which fade over a number of days or weeks), side effects tend to be limited to the pinch experienced during skin suction. It’s quite unusual that cupping causes any serious problems (though, rarely, skin infections have been reported).