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Cupping is one aspect of TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) therapy that has been in used for thousands of years. This very ancient Chinese medicine practice was introduced to the Mediterranean region as far back as 3000 B.C. by the Ottoman Turks from regions which are now part of the People’s Republic of China. Many European cultures have used it for its healing properties, to treat respiratory disorders (such as the common cold, flu, bronchitis, asthma, pneumonia), digestive disorders including abdominal pain, musculoskeletal and structural problems.

Cupping is based on the meridian theory of the body. Meridians are the conduits in the body through which energy flows to every part of the body and through every organ and tissue.

The Cupping therapy mobilises the lymphatic system, promotes great blood circulation, and is good for deep tissue repair. The therapy removes any stagnation in the body and opens up the meridians thereby allowing Qi to flow freely. The Cupping therapy is the best way of opening up the five meridians on a person’s back to rejuvenate the body. It will also help to rejuvenate certain meridians and organs that are not functioning at its best.

There are a few ways to use the Cups. Fixed position or Stationary cupping involves placing the Cups and leaving them in place for a while. Moving or Slide Cupping involves applying oil to the skin and sliding the Cups from one area to another to cover a larger area. This form of cupping can be used in conjunction with Remedial massage. Finally, there is Flash Cupping where the Cups are placed on the body and then quickly removed, in order to provide a milder stimulation.

When is Cupping used?

Cupping is used to improve blood circulation and stimulate the peripheral nervous system in a natural way.

It is a safe, non-invasive and inexpensive technique use to treat a myriad of health conditions like:

  • Sciatica and arthritic
  • Gastrointestinal conditions such as abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhoea, etc.
  • Respiratory diseases such as cold, flu, bronchitis, pneumonia, asthma and cough
  • Stimulate the digestive system
  • Musculoskeletal conditions
  • Skin problem such as acne, varicose veins, stretch marks, etc.
  • Weight problems
  • Acute sprain and strains accompanied by blood congestion
  • Tensions, aches and pains

Where is cupping applied?

In practice, Cups are normally used on the softer tissue that can form a good seal with the edge of the Cup. However, Cupping can be applied to the part of the body affected by pain, where the pain is deeper than the tissues to be pulled.

It is commonly applied to certain acupuncture points as well as to other parts of the body; e.g. neck, shoulders, back, sacral area, hip, abdomen, thigh, upper arms, calves, and in some cases even the forehead or the soles of the feet, depending on the condition. Some practitioners use the back shu points or bladder meridian and the dazhui.

How is Cupping applied?

The process involves placing Cups with reduced air pressure on the skin. The low air pressure may be created by heating the Cup or the air inside it with an open flame, then placing the Cup against the skin. The heat / suction anchors the Cup to the body. As the air inside the Cup cools, it contracts and draws the skin and superficial muscle slightly inside the Cup. The Cups are then left on the skin whilst the area beneath is being treated and the energy is moved.

The Cup may be used singly or in larger numbers to cover a larger area on the body. Sometimes the Cups are placed over an acupuncture needle that have been inserted or the Cups may be used on its own. The Cups themselves can be various shapes including balls or bells and may range in size from 25mm – 75mm (1 – 3 inches) across the opening.

Cups are generally left in place for ten minutes although the time can range from five to fifteen minutes. The cup is removed from the skin by pressing the skin on one side, allowing some outside air to enter and thus equalise the pressure.

What are the benefits of Cupping?

Cupping releases rigid tissues and stubborn knots. Contracted, tense and painful muscle tissue will soften quickly with just a few minutes of Cupping. The feedback from cupping therapy produces a feeling of relaxation and invigoration. It gives deep warmth and tingling sensation long after the treatment has ended.

Cupping draws the inflammation out of the problem area, yet does not add to it and is excellent when used as a contrast therapy with oils or liniments. The increased local blood supply to the area will nourish the muscles and skin, and allow the toxins to be carried away.

What to expect from the Cupping treatment?

Depending on the specific treatment, skin marking is common after the Cups are removed, that is, some marking on the skin where the rim of the cup was, is to be expected. This may be a simple red ring that disappears quickly, but more aggressive treatment / stronger Cupping (depending on the patient’s condition) may result in deeper skin redness. An indication that circulation has been brought to the surface. These marks generally only last between two to seven days. In general, the longer a cup is left on the skin, the more of a circular mark is created.

The other effects to be expected are:

Tiredness: Most often, the effects of cupping feel the same as after a strong, deep tissue massage. Occasionally, you may feel a little run-down while the body is cleaning out the waste products. Therefore, it is very important to slow down and drink small amounts of water as often as possible.

Relief: Immediate results are noticeable after the treatment. You will feel a lot looser and the muscular pain will be relieved quite considerably or eliminated completely. The feeling of sore, aching muscles will be replaced with a deep feeling of relaxation and well-being.