Cupping is an effective therapeutic method with a history of over 2,000 years in China. It is a simple treatment technique which can be used alone or in combination with acupuncture or moxibustion (the use of heat) to enhance the treatment.
Cupping is applied by lighting fire into a glass bowl shaped cup to produce negative pressure in the cup, and then putting the cup on the body surface at a certain area or acupuncture point. The reduced pressure in the cup creates a vacuum and the skin will be drawn up by the suction forming a firm grip around the rim of the cup, promoting blood and qi (chee/energy) circulation…..and creating the now recognized round red marks. Fire cupping is the traditional method, but there are also plastic suction cups and silicone cups where fire is not needed. Cupping is used to promote circulation, stop pain and swelling and increase range of motion. Other indications for cupping are headaches, dizziness, cough, asthma, indigestion, along with neck, shoulder and back pain.
There are different cupping methods:
- Retention Cupping is the most common form. The cup is applied and left in place. Retaining time varies, as well as the number of cups used.
- Flash cupping is characterized by repeatedly applying the cup and removing rapidly several times.
- Moving or Sliding cupping is a method of applying the cup then sliding the cup back and forth to enlarge the treatment area of the body.
Cupping is used only when appropriately indicated and should be applied by qualified practitioners. Contraindications to cupping include: skin ulcers, high fever, areas over large blood vessels, edema, dermatitis, and abdominal and sacral regions of a pregnant woman.