Cupping Explained – What is it and what are the therapeutic effects?

By Brittany Pickett-Rose

What is cupping?
The blockage of vital fluids, lymph, phlegm, and blood can cause pain. It is an ancient belief that “pain is a manifestation of blockage. Remove the blockage, and you will remove the pain.” Cupping is a natural and drug-free way to increase circulation and relieve pain by using the vacuum of the cup to pull the skin away from the muscle, to allow circulation to nourish the blocked location.

What does cupping treat?
The suction and negative pressure provided by cupping can loosen muscles, encourage blood flow, and sedate the nervous system (which makes it an excellent treatment for high blood pressure). Cupping is used to relieve back and neck pains, stiff muscles, anxiety, fatigue, migraines, and rheumatism.

How is it done?
Most acupuncturists use transparent cups made of thick glass or plastic which allows the acupuncturist to see the patient’s skin reaction under the cups. After the cups are placed, the color of the marks left on the skin give diagnostic information – the darker the color, the more stagnation. Glass cups are warmed by lighting a cotton ball soaked with alcohol inside the cup to create suction. The cotton ball is removed and the cup is placed where treatment is needed. Oil or lotion is frequently applied on the skin so the cups can glide up and down the skin, creating a soothing sensation as the muscle tension releases, and circulation comes back. Breaking up obstruction creates an avenue for toxins to be drawn out of the body through the lymphatic system. The western perspective views cupping as a creation of more space between tissue layers to rid dead cellular debris and excess fluids, as well as toxins. Scar tissue is broken up naturally.

What can you expect?

Instant pain relief, an increased range of motion, and a good soreness like you feel after a great workout. The marks will go away in about a week.

The earliest recorded use of cupping dates back to 300 AD. Cupping was established as an official therapeutic practice in the 1950s offered in Chinese hospitals after research conducted by Chinese and former Soviet Union acupuncturists confirmed the immediate, positive effects of cupping.

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