Cupping is one of the oldest methods of treating diseases. Promoted by people of many different cultures around the world, past and present, cupping has been used to mobilize blood flow within the skin and underlying tissues in order to promote healing. It is called "cupping" because the instruments used resemble small cups or jars that are applied to the skin in such a way that they create a local suction. In ancient times, the cups were made of animal horn or bamboo. Since then, the materials for making the cups and the methods involved have greatly improved. Today the cups are made of wide range of materials including glass, plastic, and silicone.
Cupping is commonly used in conjunction with acupuncture to enhance the healing effects of treatment. Having tremendous therapeutic effects of its own, cupping is oftentimes used alone as well. There are many types and methods of cupping available today. Our acupuncturist uses glass cups that are equipped with one-way valves. As the cups are placed on the skin, a hand-held pump draws the air out of the glass through the valves, creating a mild suction. This technique anchors the cup to the skin and pulls it upward on the inside of the glass. Drawing up the skin in this fashion is believed to open up the pores of the skin and stimulate the flow of blood. It is known to clear obstructions in the flow of energy through the body's meridians (energy pathways) and creates an avenue for toxins to be drawn out of the body.
Our acupuncturist also uses cups made of silicone. With this method, massage oil is first applied to the skin enabling the cups to be moved around with a sensation similar to a nice massage. The type of cup used depends upon the indication and the part of the body involved.
What conditions does cupping treat?
As cupping creates a local suction, some subcutaneous and muscle tissue is also drawn up into the cup. For this reason, cupping can be used to treat a wide array of musculoskeletal issues. Besides being an excellent treatment modality for many types of sports injuries, cupping is also a wonderful remedy for everyday aches and pains as it helps muscles to relax and release tension. It is great for arthritic joint conditions and helps improve range of motion. Cupping can also used to treat a broad range of medical conditions and certain systemic diseases throughout the entire body.
What will I experience?
First and foremost, cupping is not painful. There are some cupping methods in which many cups are applied to the skin and left on for 15 minutes or more. This prolonged suction causes large, deep bruises to form on the skin where the cups are applied. Our acupuncturist does not use these methods. In our Acupuncture Spa, each glass cup that is applied is then removed almost instantly, bringing about the same therapeutic effects. There is no need to leave the cups on. Therefore, there is never a visible sign that the cup was ever there.
Besides the glass cups, our acupuncturist also uses soft, pliable silicone cups that are flexible and conform to the surface of the skin. With this cupping method, massage oil is used to lubricate the skin so that the cup can be moved freely over the area without breaking the suction. This type of cupping feels just like a deep tissue massage. Our clients love it, especially when preceded by a hot moist towel.
After cupping treatment, drinking a lot of water is highly recommended to help circulate the blood and other fluids through the tissues in the areas affected. Drinking water will also help the kidneys eliminate any toxins that are released from the tissues as a result of the cupping.
Cupping is never unpleasant or uncomfortable. Many people experience a sense of restored energy as well as pain reduction following cupping treatment.
Theresa L. Spradlin, M.Ac., L.Ac., Dipl. Ac. (NCCAOM) Board Certified Licensed Acupuncturist