Cupping: What is it?

Cupping involves placing glass, silicone or plastic jars on the skin and creating a vacuum by suctioning out the air. The underlying tissue is raised, or sucked, partway into the cup. The purpose of cupping is to enhance circulation, help relieve pain, remove “heat” and pull out the toxins that linger in your body’s tissues.

You usually will feel a tight sensation in the area of the cup. Often, this sensation is relaxing and soothing. Depending on your comfort and your practitioner’s assessment of the problem, cups may be moved around or left in place. They may remain on your body briefly or for longer amounts of time. Each treatment is unique to you on that particular day. One very common area to be cupped is the back, although cups work well on other areas, too — particularly on fleshy sections of the body. There are a number of methods of cupping — the two most common here in the U.S. are “fixed cupping” and “moving cupping.”

Fixed Cupping: The cups are placed on a selected area of your body and then left in place without being moved.

Moving Cupping: As the name implies, in this method your practitioner applies massage oil or gel on
your skin in selected places, puts the cups over the areas to be treated and then slides them around that region of the body — most commonly the back. The cups slide easily because the gel has lubricated your body.

What is it used for?

Cupping has numerous benefits — it can help remove toxins from the body and stimulate the flow of fresh blood, lymph, and Qi to the affected area and throughout the body. It often works wonders for patients with the flu, colds, coughs, back and muscle pain, poor circulation, anxiety, red itchy skin conditions (though cups are not applied to inflamed areas), allergies, fevers, aches and myriad other pains.

Do you bruise?

Cupping marks cannot be called bruises simply because of the way bruises are caused. Bruises appear when the body experiences some kind of blunt injury or trauma. Cupping marks are caused by suction from the cupping set instead of the pressure in case of trauma, and works to bring toxins to the surface.

The most important differentiating factor is the cupping marks do not cause pain and if there is any discomfort, it is minimal and goes away quickly. It is also common to use silicone cups to glide across the skin like a massage instead of focusing on one particular area.

The coloring typically ranges from bright red to a darker purple, and can last from 3 days to a week. A darker coloring means that there is a high level of toxins and stagnation in the section of the body that has been treated. In this case, the marks can last for up to 3 weeks. However, if there are hardly any toxins, the coloring could be just a light pink and is likely to dissipate within a few hours.

 

Who Shouldn’t Try Cupping?

It should be noted that cupping is not to be used on patients who bleed easily and/or cannot stop bleeding, have skin ulcers, or edema. It is unwise to cup over large blood vessels as well. Pregnant women should be cupped with caution and never on their abdomen. If you aren’t sure, it’s best to talk with your doctor before treatment.