Guide to cupping

Introduction to cupping

Cupping is the ancient Chinese practice in which a cup is applied to the skin to create a vaccuum which stimulates blood flow to help relive stress and aches and pains. While the treatment does leave noticeable marks or bruises, cupping is not a painful therapy either before of after the treatment.

What is cupping?

Cupping is the ancient Chinese form of acupuncture, which is concerned with the movement of blood, body energy (Qi), and body fluids. Oriental medicine considers pain to be a result of the stagnation of these systems due to injury or stress. The treatment of cupping is believed to stimulate blood flow and help ease stress, aches and pains.

Cupping received lots of attention and came to public prominence when film star Gwyneth Paltrow turned out at a major film premiere in a dress that revealed her back, which was covered in large circular marks caused by cupping.

What is the purpose of cupping?

Cupping therapy aims to open the 'meridians' of the body. Meridians are seen as the means by which energy flows to every part of the body and through every organ and tissue. The back is where cupping treatment is most commonly applied, and there are considered to be five meridians on the back which, when ‘opened’, allow invigorating energy to travel all over the body.

To carry out the treatment, a therapist takes a number of glass cups and heats them with a flame. The cup is then quickly applied to the skin, creating a vacuum which draws up the underlying tissues. The cups are then left on the body for a few minutes to promote blood flow and healing. Cupping does leave noticeable marks or bruises for a while, but it is not painful during or after treatment. It is usually used as a treatment on its own, but it can be combined with other therapies.

What are the benefits of cupping?

Cupping is frequently used as an alternative to acupuncture or massage, and can help the tissues to release toxins; stimulate the lymphatic system; activate and clear the veins, arteries and capillaries; and activate the skin.

The treatment is particularly useful for relieving pain in the muscles, especially back pain from stiffness or injury and clearing congestion in the chest, which can occur during colds and flu. It has also been used to treat a number of other conditions, including bowel problems, headaches, arthritis, period pain, asthma, cellulite, anemia, depression, sciatica, skin problems, blood pressure and weight loss.

Some suggest that another benefit of cupping is for the therapists themselves, since just a few minutes of cupping is considered to be worth around 30 minutes of general massage – thus saving wear and tear on the masseur’s joints! It also means that cupping is a good option to take if you don’t have time for a long massage session.

Comments (1)

  • jtan1306 'I am a complementary & sports therapist based in Derbyshire. I offer cupping therapy and it's very effective. I've had patients who has returned to running after having a few sessions. It really complements sports massage or any remedial or holistic treatment, even if it's just for general wellbeing. I grew up with it (being a chinese) so I really believe in cupping therapy.'

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