Cupping uses heat or suction to create a partial vacuum in cups
placed on the skin. This draws up the underlying tissues. The cups are
left in place on the skin for a few minutes, causing local congestion.
Cupping has been used for thousands of years in many cultures. Originally,
animal horns, then bamboo cups and kitchen glasses were used. Traditionally,
a flammable substance is soaked in alcohol, then lit and held briefly
inside the cup. The fire consumes the oxygen inside the cup, which anchors
the cup to the skin, and pulls the flesh upward inside the glass. In
my own practice, I used traditional fire cups for several years but then
switched to cupping sets that come with hand pumps. Using the hand pump
instead of a flame allows me to control the amount of pressure and suction
inside the cup with greater precision.
(Click on image for larger view)
What are the benefits of cupping?
- Promotes the free flow of qi and especially blood in the
- Dispels wind, damp and cold to treat muscle and joint pain, stiffness,
- Treats headaches, neck pain and backaches.
- Resolves menstrual problems.
- Dispels colds and respiratory infections.
- Benefits the lungs for cough and asthma.
- Strengthens the immune system by promoting the flow of lymphatic
- Improves circulation to reduce inflammation.
- Relieves gastrointestinal symptoms such as stomachache, vomiting
- Activates the skin, clears stretch marks and wrinkles and improves
- Sliding cups (cups are fastened and then slid back and forth over
a lubricated area) treats excess heat conditions, fever, stress, depression
- Wet cupping (pricking or bleeding an acupoint, then cupping over
the area to draw out the blood) treats severe blood stagnation and
inflammation, such as acute sprains or sciatica.
- Cupping affects the body down to a depth of four inches beneath
the surface--thus, it is the best deep tissue massage available.
- The suction created by cupping pulls stagnant intercellular fluid
to the surface, removes toxic debris and replaces it with fresh oxygenated,
nutrient rich fluid.
See also What is Sha?