An Introduction to Cupping

Cupping

With all the recent buzz over cupping on many Olympic athletes, I’ve been fielding a lot of curious questions. Here are the answers to what most people are asking.

What is cupping?

Cupping utilizes small glass cups to create suction over specific areas of the body to increase blood flow, disperse stagnation, and relieve pain.

Why do you do it?

We use it on patients for chronic and acute pain, muscle soreness and knots. Its also great at the initial onset of a cold- when someone feels like they are coming down with something, or to relieve congestion. I like to explain it as pulling the stagnation up to the surface for your body to fight and push out, rather than having it sit deep in the tissues.  It improves circulation to the area so that fresh qi and blood can enter and relieve pain.  

What conditions is it helpful for?

  • Asthma
  • Chest Congestion
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Muscle and joint pain

Where do you do it?

Cups are most commonly placed on the back.  For muscle soreness and tightness, we would place the cups over the tightness, and often over related organ points to help the body rebalance and heal (think: treating the surface, while balancing any underlying cause— so that it doesn't continue to be a bother in the same area). The meridians that run down the back have points that correspond to each organ.  For example, if you came in for a cold, we’d likely put cups at the height of your scapula.  

Do you use those fire cups?

In our practice we use the suction cups, with the suction created by a pump rather than fire (as seen in the photo). We find patients to be less fearful to try and therefore reap the benefits with this method. 

What does it feel like?

We often to describe it to patients as a reverse massage, it doesn't hurt, and many feel relief as soon as the cups are on.

How long do the marks last?

This varies from person to person, for some people only a day or two, for others it can last closer to 5 days. The darker the stagnation or circle left, the longer it can take to clear.

When isn't it recommend?

  • If a patient is deficient (think overly fatigued)
  • during a woman's cycle 
  • Over broken skin