At BodaHealth, we offer a variety of therapeutic treatments that fall under the umbrella of Chinese medicine. Among those healing methods, acupuncture is the best-known. However, many people who are familiar with acupuncture may have never heard about treatment called cupping. The healing practice of cupping has been in use for over a thousand years. It’s become better known in the past few decades, thanks to elite athletes and famous celebrities who have shown up in public with cupping marks.
Cupping is a natural healing method in which a vacuum is created in a cup which has been placed on your skin. The vacuum can be created through a pump and gasket system, by squeezing the air out of soft cups, or by introducing a small flame into a glass cup for a few seconds to create a vacuum, removing the flame, and placing the cup on the area to be treated (don’t worry, it doesn’t burn).
The cups are usually left in place for 10 to 20 minutes. During that time, the skin under the cups will become raised and may turn a red or purple color. In most cases, the red or purple marks will remain for up to a week. These marks are not a bruise, nor are they painful.
While cupping is an age-old practice, its exact origin is unknown. It has been used for at least 2,000 years in various parts of the world. In China, the use of cupping was recorded as early as 300 A.D.; in Greece Hippocrates (400 B.C.) used cups for a number of illnesses; and in Europe cupping was documented throughout the ages as early as 200 A.D.
In ancient times, cups were fashioned from bamboo, animal horn, and gourds. Later healers made cups out of metal or pottery, and today glass, plastic or silicone are used in the clinic. It’s believed that cupping was originally used to treat infections, bites, and skin lesions. Over time, as the benefits of cupping became more apparent, healers began to expand the use of cupping to treat a wide variety of conditions.
Cupping is effective because the vacuum in the cups creates a pulling action, which promotes healing in a number of ways. Beneath the surface of your skin are layers of muscle and fibrous tissue, called fascia. When the muscle and fascia become tight, injured, or contracted, painful lumps or knots can form. Cupping the area over tight muscles or knots acts like a reverse massage, in which the tissue is pulled by the suction, instead of being pushed. This helps to break up knots and keeps your muscles and fascia loose.
Additionally, cupping promotes circulation in the area that’s been treated. It brings blood and nutrients into the area, which helps to speed up healing and reduce inflammation. Researchers are also finding that cupping is a beneficial way to reduce pain. A 2016 study of patients with neck and shoulder pain found that those who received cupping reported a significant decrease in their pain, compared to the patients who didn’t receive cupping.
In the clinic, cupping is often used on your back, neck, shoulders, hips & legs to relieve pain and speed healing. However, cupping is also used to treat a number of other conditions. Cups may be placed down both sides of your back to promote healing and stimulate circulation to the nerves and pathways that originate from your spine. Your practitioner may also place cups on your upper chest as a treatment for respiratory issues, such as asthma, cough, and the common cold. Other conditions that may be treated with cupping include:
- Facial paralysis, Bell’s palsy
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Cervical Spondylosis (age-related wear of the discs in your neck)
- Anxiety and depression
At BodaHealth, our practitioners use glass, plastic, and silicone cups. The choice of cups often depends on your condition, the area of treatment, and the preference of your practitioner. Based on the goals for your treatment, your practitioner may leave the cups in one place or they may perform a sliding technique. For sliding cups, a small amount of oil is used on the skin, and once the cups are placed, your practitioner moves the cups along the muscles while retaining suction in the cup.
The therapeutic effects of cupping are subtle, relaxing, and effective. At BodaHealth, it’s often used in combination with an acupuncture session, however cupping may also be used as a stand-alone treatment. It can help to relieve pain, increase circulation, loosen tight muscles, and promote healing. If you’d like to know more about cupping and how it may help you, please contact us.