Cupping / Chinese Cupping Therapy

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How can Cupping help you?

From a Western physiology perspective, Cupping (or Cupping Therapy):

  • Loosens connective tissue or fascia and increases blood flow to the surface.
  • Stimulates tissue relaxation and better cell-to-cell communication.
  • Relaxes tissue and reduces markers of inflammation. Inflammatory cytokines (chemical messengers) are reduced, and cytokines that promote healing and relaxation are increased.
  • Provides local pain relief and muscle relaxation.
  • Removes energy blockages that TCM practitioners identify as barriers to the flow of healthy energy or qi.
  • For athletes, it may help increase blood flow to a particular muscle region or help reduce pain. (Medicine Net)
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Cupping (or Chinese Cupping Therapy) is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to remove stagnation and stimulate the flow of qi (chi). Qi is the free flow of vital energy circulating through your body and the world around you. If the qi is disrupted or disturbed, it can create stagnation (blockages) or imbalances in your body.

A therapeutic Cupping treatment involves warming and placing cups, usually made of glass, on your skin. By warming the air within the cup, a vacuum is created, and when it is applied to your skin, the tissue is drawn up into the cup.

How does Cupping work? 

The practice increases blood flow, loosens the fascia or connective tissue, and is thought to stimulate healing in your body. It is similar to the way Deep Tissue Massage can be used to break up scar tissue and reduce pain. The cups are often placed on your back, neck, and shoulders or on the site of pain.

Cupping may cause temporary bruising and soreness, depending upon the degree of suction created by the vacuum and the level of internal stagnation. According to TCM, some bruising or soreness would indicated a favorable outcome, suggesting the treatment has successfully removed toxins and stagnation. The cups are removed by lifting one edge, which allows air in and breaks the seal and vacuum. (Medicine Net)

Cupping (or Chinese Cupping) was established as an official therapeutic practice in the 1950s across hospitals in China after research conducted by Chinese and former Soviet Union acupuncturists confirmed cupping’s effectiveness. Prior to the 1950s, Cupping had also been practiced as an auxiliary method in traditional Chinese surgery. 

What Is Chinese Cupping? What Does it Do for You?

Cupping is the term applied to a technique that uses small glass cups or bamboo jars as suction devices that are placed on your skin to disperse and break up stagnation and congestion by drawing congested blood, energy, or other ‘humours’ (body fluids or metabolic heat) to the surface. In Dry Cupping, the Practitioner will simply place the suction cups on your skin. In Wet Cupping, the Practitioner will make a small incision on your skin and then apply the suction cup to draw out small amounts of blood.

There are several ways that a Practitioner can create the suction in the cups. One method involves swabbing rubbing alcohol onto the bottom of the cup, then lighting it, and putting the cup immediately against your skin. Suction can also be created by placing an inverted cup over a small flame, or by using an alcohol-soaked cotton pad over an insulating material (like leather) to protect your skin, then lighting the pad and placing an empty cup over the flame to extinguish it. Flames are never used near your skin and are not lit throughout the process of Cupping, but rather are a means to create the heat that causes the suction within the small cups.

Once the suction has occurred, the cups can be gently moved across your skin (often referred to as “Gliding Cupping“). Medical Massage oils are sometimes applied to improve movement of the glass cups along your skin. The suction in the cups causes your skin and superficial muscle layer to be lightly drawn into the cup.

Cupping is much like the inverse of Massage—rather than applying pressure to muscles, it uses gentle pressure to pull them upward. For most people, this is a particularly relaxing and relieving sensation. Once suctioned, the cups are generally left in place for about ten minutes while you relax. This is similar to the practice of Tui Na, a Traditional Chinese Medicine Massage technique that targets Acupuncture points as well as painful body parts, and is well known to provide relief through pressure.

The side effects of cupping are fairly mild. Some bruising should be expected, but your skin should return to looking normal within 10 days. Other potential side effects may include mild discomfort, skin infection, or burns. (Pacific College of Health and Science)

Cupping is a type of alternative therapy that involves placing cups on your skin to create suction. This suction is thought to improve the flow of energy in your body and facilitate healing.

One of the oldest medical texts to mention Cupping Therapy is Eber’s papyrus (1550 BC) from Ancient Egypt, though Cupping is a part of many ancient healing systems, including Chinese, Unani, traditional Korean, and Tibetan. Greek Physician, Hippocrates, often referred to as the “father” of Medicine, even compiled descriptions of Cupping techniques in his writings.

These days, Cupping Therapy is usually found as a treatment offered by Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It is believed that the suction helps facilitate the flow of “qi” in your body. Qi is a Chinese word meaning life force.

Cupping can help balance yin and yang, or the negative and positive, within your body. Restoring balance between these two extremes is thought to help with your body’s resistance to pathogens as well as its ability to increase blood flow and reduce pain.

Cupping increases blood circulation to the area where the cups are placed. This may relieve muscle tension, which can improve overall blood flow and promote cell repair. It may also help form new connective tissues and create new blood vessels in your tissues.

Cupping is often used to complement health care for a host of symptoms and conditions.

Explore the Research

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