Complementary Therapy: Cupping

Cupping is one of the oldest methods of Chinese medicine. Cupping is a technique that is considered useful in the treatment of problems of qi and is sometimes performed as an alternative to acupuncture. This therapy is mainly recommended for the treatment of pain, gastro-intestinal disorders, and lung diseases; and is performed on fleshy areas of the body.

This practice involves applying a cup to the skin where the pressure in the cup is reduced so that the skin and superficial muscle tissue is drawn into and held in the cup.  During cupping sessions, glass cups are warmed, often using a cotton ball or other flammable substance, which is soaked in alcohol and lit, then placed, inside the cup. The flame removes all of the oxygen in the cup resulting in a vacuum when placed open-side down, which anchors the cup to the skin and pulls the skin upward, inside of the glass.

The cup may be moved, in some cases, while the suction of skin is active, causing a regional pulling of the skin and muscle. Some practitioners may apply oils to a patient prior to a session where they intend to move the cups, in order to help the cups move more easily across the skin.

Drawing the skin into the cups is believed to help to stimulate the flow of blood, balance and realign the flow of qi, break up obstructions, and assist with the release of toxins. Cups are usually left in place from 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the condition being treated. Several cups may be placed on a patient’s body at the same time.

While cupping is considered relatively safe it may result in swelling and bruising on the skin. As skin under a cup is drawn up, the blood vessels at the surface of the skin expand, resulting in circular bruises on the areas where the cups were applied. These bruises are usually painless and disappear within a few days of treatment.

Have you ever tried cupping?

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