Cupping is one of my favorite therapeutic tools. In fact, I have been called “The Cupping Queen” because I use it on the majority of my patients. Although it is still gaining popularity in the West, cupping has been used for its therapeutic benefits for over 2,000 years.
What exactly is cupping?
Similar to massage, it is a deep tissue bodywork therapy. However, rather than compressing the muscles, “cups” are suctioned to the skin, creating a vacuum. This negative pressure pulls skin, muscle and fascia up and away from the body, creating space for increased blood flow. While this may sound unpleasant, most patients absolutely love their treatments, and frequently request this either after an acupuncture treatment or as a stand-along treatment.
Traditional fire cupping involves placing a flame in a glass or bamboo cup to create a vacuum, before quickly suctioning the cup to the skin. While it might look dangerous, fire cupping is very safe when performed by a trained professional. A more modernized form of cupping involves the use of silicone or vacuum-pumped cups. The therapist can control the pressure of the cups from very light to very strong.
Sliding cupping—oil or liniment is first applied to the skin. The cups are then suctioned and slid back and forth along the muscles. This is the most commonly-used form of cupping—it’s like a massage with cups. And it feels great!
Static cupping—the cups are suctioned to specific parts of the body, and are not moved. The practitioner will determine the appropriate length of time to retain the cups. This is the type of cupping that can cause painless but dark round bruises that you may have seen on the backs of celebrities in recent years.
Bleeding cupping—also known as “wet cupping”—in certain cases, a lancet is used to prick the skin. A cup is placed over the pinprick, and a small amount of blood is suctioned into the cup.
What are the benefits of cupping?
- Relieves neck and shoulder tension
- Decreases chronic and acute pain
- Improves energy
- Boosts immune system
- Increases blood and lymphatic circulation
- Clears lung congestion / cough
- Removes energetic blockages
- Reduces cellulite
- Rejuvenates the skin
- Relaxing to the patient
What are risks / contraindications?
Cupping feels great, and is extremely safe when performed by an experienced practitioner. However, though the treatment may not be painful, cupping can cause some surface bruising. Cupping is contraindicated in cases of severe edema, cardiac failure, and dermatitis. During pregnancy, the lower abdomen and lumbosacral region should not be cupped.
Maura Schuster, L.OM
Licensed Practitioner of Oriental Medicine