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This is cupping!

Cupping is a form of therapy widely used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). It consists of creating a local suction on the skin using either heat (fire) or mechanical devices (hand or electrical pumps). In China, cupping is under instruction of Traditional Chinese Medicine’s Theory. 2 or 3 Cups are usually placed on the acupuncture points, or are moved along meridian based on patient’s condition.

Different kinds of cupping


The cups may be made of:

  • Glass

  • Bamboo

  • Earthenware

  • Silicone

Cupping therapy might be trendy now, but it’s not new. It dates back to ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern cultures. One of the oldest medical textbooks in the world, the Ebers Papyrus, describes how the ancient Egyptians used cupping therapy in 1,550 B.C.


There are different methods of cupping, including:

  • Dry 

  • Wet 

During both types of cupping, your therapist will put a flammable substance such as alcohol, herbs, or paper in a cup and set it on fire. As the fire goes out, he puts the cup upside down on your skin.

As the air inside the cup cools, it creates a vacuum. This causes your skin to rise and redden as your blood vessels expand. The cup is generally left in place for up to 3 minutes. Sometimes therapists move cups from place to place on your skin for a massage-like effect.

Wet cupping creates a mild suction by leaving a cup in place for about 3 minutes. The therapist then removes the cup and uses a small scalpel to make light, tiny cuts on your skin. Next, he or she does a second suction to draw out a small quantity of blood.

Some people also get “needle cupping,” in which the therapist first inserts acupuncture needles and then puts cups over them.

Skin markings are common after the cups are removed, the result of the rupture of capillaries located under the skin. The skin usually look normal again within 10 days.


What does the research show ?

Report, published in 2015 in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, notes that it could help with acne, herpes zoster, and pain management.

That’s similar to the findings from a 2012 report, published in PLOS One. Australian and Chinese researchers reviewed 135 studies on cupping. They concluded that cupping therapy may be effective when people also get other treatments, like acupuncture or medications, for various diseases and conditions, such as: herpes zoster, acne, facial paralysis, cervical spondylosis. 

What does cupping treat?

  • Pain such as headache, sciatica, frozen shoulder,  Migraines

  • Blood disorders such as anemia and hemophilia

  • Rheumatic diseases such as arthritis and fibromyalgia

  • Fertility and gynecological disorders

  • Skin problems such as eczema and acne

  • High blood pressure 

  • Anxiety and depression

  • Bronchial congestion caused by allergies and asthma

  • Varicose veins

  • Obesity

Not suitable for cupping if you...

Have or in the situation of: 

  • Inflamed skin

  • Cases of high fever or convulsions

  • Bleed easily

  • Stomach or lower back of Pregnant women

  • Bony areas​

Side effects

​​One of the biggest advantages of alternative practices, like cupping therapy, acupuncture or massage therapy, is that these methods don’t pose the risk for unwanted side effects like pharmacological drugs or surgery do. People get it for many purposes, including to help with pain, inflammation, blood flow, relaxation and well-being, etc. Cupping is safe as long as you go to a trained health professional. But you could have these side effects in the area where the cups touch your skin:

  • Mild discomfort

  • Burns

  • Bruises

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