What is Cupping Therapy?

Cupping Therapy is an ancient Chinese medical practice that relies upon creating a local suction by using a cup to mobilize blood flow in order to promote healing. Suction is created using heat (fire) or mechanical devices (hand or electrical pumps), so that the skin and superficial muscle layer is drawn into and held in the cup. Drawing up the skin is believed to open up the skin's pores, which helps to stimulate the flow of blood, balances and realigns the flow of qi, breaks up obstructions, and creates an avenue for toxins to be drawn out of the body. The earliest recorded use of cupping dates to the early fourth century.

How does Cupping Therapy work?

Cupping is applied by acupuncturists to certain acupuncture points, as well as to regions of the body that are affected by pain, to dispel stagnation—stagnant blood and lymph, thereby improving qi flow—to treat various diseases. Depending on the condition being treated, the cups will be left in place from 5 to 10 minutes. Several cups may be placed on a patient's body at the same time. Some practitioners will also apply small amounts of medicated oils or herbal oils to the skin just before the cupping procedure, which lets them move the cups up and down particular acupoints or meridians after they have been applied.

When fixed position cupping is used, a certain amount of bruising is expected at the cupping site. In traditional cupping, heated cups are used and the hot cups can also generate a similar stimulating effect like that of burning moxa wool in Moxibustion Therapy. However, with movement of the cups along the surface of the skin, it's somewhat like a gentler Guasha Therapy and some bruising is also expected. These bruises are usually painless, however, and disappear within a few days of treatment.

Contraindications for cupping include: areas of skin that are inflamed; cases of high fever, convulsions or cramping, or easy bleeding (i.e., pathological level of low platelets); or the abdominal area or lower back during pregnancy. Movement of the cups is limited to fleshy areas: the movement should not cross bony ridges, such as the spine. Following are some of the recommended treatment sites for various disorders.

What can be treated by Cupping Therapy?

Today, cupping is mainly recommended for the treatment of pain, respiratory conditions (bronchitis, asthma, and congestion), paralysis, blood disorders (anaemia, haemophilia), rheumatic diseases (arthritic joint and muscular conditions), gastro-intestinal disorders, fertility and gynaecological disorders, skin problems (eczema, acne) as well as improving general physical and psychological well-being. Fleshy sites on the body, such as the back and stomach (and, to a lesser extent, the arms and legs), are the preferred sites for treatment.

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