What is cupping therapy?
Cupping therapy is an ancient form of alternative medicine in which a therapist puts special cups on your skin for a few minutes to create suction. People get it for many purposes, including to help with pain, inflammation, blood flow, relaxation, and well-being, and as a type of deep-tissue massage.
Cupping therapy might be trendy now, but it’s not new. It dates back to ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern cultures. One of the oldest medical textbooks in the world, the Ebers Papyrus, describes how the ancient Egyptians used cupping therapy in 1,550 B.C.
The cups may be made of:
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:
1. Dry cupping is a suction-only method.
2. Wet cupping may involve both suction and controlled medicinal bleeding.
Your practitioner, your medical condition, and your preferences will help determine what method is used.
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’s 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. With wet cupping, cups are usually only in place for a few minutes before the practitioner removes the cup and makes a small incision to draw blood.
After the cups are removed, the practitioner may cover the previously cupped areas with ointment and bandages. This helps prevent infection. Any mild 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 two to three hours before your cupping session.
What conditions can cupping treat?
Cupping has been used to treat a wide variety of conditions. It may be particularly effective at easing conditions that create muscle aches and pains.
Since the cups can also be applied to major acupressure points, the practice is possibly effective at treating digestive issues, skin issues, and other conditions commonly treated with acupressure.
A 2012 review of studiesTrusted Source suggests cupping therapy’s healing power may be more than just a placebo effect. The researchers found that cupping therapy may help with the following conditions, among others:
2. Facial paralysis.
3. Cough and dyspnea.
5. Lumbar disc herniation.
6. Cervical spondylosis.
7. Back pain.
8. Lower back pain.
However, the authors acknowledge that most of the 135 studies they reviewed contain a high level of bias. More studies are needed to assess the true effectiveness of cupping.
Preparing for your cupping appointment:
Cupping is a long-practiced treatment that may help ease the symptoms of both temporary and chronic health conditions.
As with many alternative therapies, keep in mind that there haven’t been extensive studies performed without bias to fully assess its true effectiveness.
If you choose to try cupping, consider using it as a complement to your current doctor visits, not a substitute.
Here are some things to consider before beginning cupping therapy:
1. What conditions do the cupping practitioner specialize in treating?
2. What method of cupping does the practitioner use?
3. Is the facility clean? Does the practitioner implement safety measurements?
4. Does the practitioner have any certifications?
5. Do you have a condition that may benefit from cupping?
6. Before beginning any alternative therapy, remember to let your doctor know that you’re planning to. Incorporate it into your treatment plan.
Things to keep in mind:
Most medical professionals don’t have training or a background in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Your doctor may be cautious or uncomfortable with answering questions related to healing methods like cupping.
Some CAM practitioners may be particularly enthusiastic about their methods, even suggesting you skip over conventional medical treatments advised by your doctor.
But if you do choose to try cupping as part of your treatment plan, discuss your decision with your doctor. Continue with regular doctor visits related to your condition to get the best of both worlds.
Cupping therapy isn’t recommended for everyone. Extra caution should be taken for the following groups:
1. Children: Children under 4 years old shouldn’t receive cupping therapy. Older children should only be treated for very short periods.
2. Seniors: Our skin becomes more fragile as we age. Any medication you may be taking might have an effect as well.
3. Pregnant people: Avoid cupping the abdomen and lower back.
Those who are currently menstruating.
Don’t use cupping if you use blood-thinning medication. Also, avoid cupping if you have:
A skin ulcer.
Experienced recent trauma.
An internal organ disorder.