How Does Cupping Therapy Work? | Apotheque Lifestyle Spa

Cupping therapy is an increasingly popular form of wellness therapy that individuals partake in to reap the associated benefits, such as to reduce pain, increase blood flow, reduce inflammation, and to promote relaxation and well-being, but what is cupping therapy? While cupping therapy has gained notoriety and attention in recent years, it has been around for much longer, with some tracing its origins back to 300 AD in a work titled A Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies written by Ge Hong, a Taoist herbalist. It was also traced to Ebers Papyrus, an ancient Egyptian text describing the use of cupping therapy in 1,550 BC.

Cupping therapy has roots in ancient Chinese, Egyptian, and Middle Eastern cultures. To understand whether a cupping treatment may be a beneficial wellness therapy for you, it is important to be knowledgeable about what cupping therapy is, how cupping therapy works, and the benefits of body cupping therapy. We have put together an introductory guide that covers these topics to help you answer the question, “How does cupping therapy work?”

An Introduction to Cupping Therapy

As mentioned above, cupping therapy has been practice employed by many cultures throughout human history. In the 1950’s, cupping therapy was established as an official therapeutic practice in hospitals across China. This designation came as the result of research that former Soviet Union and Chinese acupuncturists conducted that confirmed the effectiveness of cupping therapy as a form of wellness therapy.

At its most base level, cupping therapy describes a process by which a type of cub is used as a suction device and placed on the skin to disperse stagnant blood and break up stagnation by drawing the blood or energy to the surface of the skin. The type of cup used in cupping therapy can range from small glass, bamboo, earthenware, or silicone cups. Cupping therapy has many different adaptations that can be employed to receive all the health benefits of massage therapy and more! To help you understand how these various forms of cupping therapy work, we have provided an overview of several types of cupping therapy below.

Dry Cupping

This is one of the most common types of cupping therapy. In dry cupping, the individual administering the cupping therapy will put a flammable substance, such as paper, herbs, or alcohol inside of a cup. The practitioner will then light the contents of the cup on fire. As the fire begins to go out, the cup will be placed upside down on the surface of the skin. Flames should never be coming into contact with or be near the surface of the skin. The flame is used as a means to create heat that develops the suction within the cups. In some more modern practices of dry cupping therapy, a rubber pump is used in the place of fire to create the suction effect within the cup. Some practitioners may also place a piece of insulating material against the skin before placing the cup against the skin.

Once the cup is placed against the skin, the air inside of the cup will begin to cool down, which creates a vacuum effect. This cupping process causes the blood vessels to expand and the surface of the skin to redden and rise. During this process, the cup is generally left in place for roughly three minutes. On average, individuals will receive three to five cups during their first session. Practitioners generally do not place more than five to seven cups. The skin underneath where the cupping has occurred will likely bruise but should return to normal within roughly ten days. In some cases, individuals may experience burns, mild discomfort, or a skin infection. To mitigate these potential side effects, the practitioner administering the cupping therapy will often apply an antibiotic ointment to the treated skin and bandage it to prevent a skin infection from developing.

Wet Cupping

Wet cupping therapy follows the same principles as dry cupping, with a few notable differences. Just like with dry cupping, the practitioner will follow the above process to create suction within the cup, place it on the skin, allow it to sit for roughly three minutes, and then remove the cup. However, when wet cupping, the individual administering the therapy will then use a small scalpel to make light, tiny cuts on the surface of the skin. Once these cuts have been made, the second round of suction using the cups will be performed to draw out a small quantity of blood.

Some individuals believe that the process of wet cupping helps to rid the body of harmful toxins and substances to promote healing. Most people don’t know what toxins are to our skin, but it is important to get rid of them in order to live a healthier life. It is also important to take things further and detox through yoga and pranayama in addition to cupping. The use of an antibiotic ointment and bandaging the skin after wet cupping is extremely important to help prevent a skin infection from developing. After everything is healed make sure to apply sunscreen to avoid damage due to sun.

Gliding Cupping

Another type of cupping therapy that you may encounter is often referred to as gliding cupping, though sometimes it is also called massage cupping or moving cupping. During gliding cupping, the therapist will heat the cups as described above and then apply them to the skin. Once the suction has occurred, the cups can then be gently moved across the surface of the skin. Some therapists may apply massage oils just as a massage therapist would to help the cups move more smoothly across the surface of the skin. For gliding cupping, silicone or rubber cups are often used as they are softer on the skin and allow for greater flexibility when moving across the skin.

This process functions as the inverse of receiving a massage. As the cups glide across the surface of the skin, the skin and a superficial layer of muscle are lightly drawn into the cup. During a massage pressure is applied to the muscles, gliding cupping uses the suction of the cups to apply gentle pressure to pull the muscles upward. Gliding cupping is intended to provide individuals with a sensation of relaxation and relief as it is performed. In gliding cupping, one the cups have been suctioned to the skin, they are generally left in place for roughly ten minutes, during which time the individual receiving the treatment is instructed to relax.

Needle Cupping

Needle cupping is another form of cupping in which the practitioner administering the treatment will insert acupuncture needles into the patient first. From there, the therapist will then follow the steps to heat the cups and will apply them to the skin on top of the acupuncture needles. The purpose of needle cupping is to combine the benefits of both acupuncture and cupping therapy into one healing therapy.

Fire Cupping

One type of cupping that you may encounter is called fire cupping. In fire supping, a cotton ball is soaked in an alcohol solution, often containing up to seventy percent alcohol. Once the cotton ball is completely soaked, the cupping practitioner will use a pair of forceps to pick it up and will light it on fire with a match or lighter. Once the alcohol-soaked cotton ball is on fire, it is held inside of the cup to trap heat inside of it. Once the heat is trapped, the cupping practitioner will quickly remove the flaming cotton ball and will invert the cup on the surface of the skin. A different cupping method for fire cupping is to pour the alcohol solution directly into the cup, light it on fire, and then let the fire go out before placing the inverted cup on the surface of the skin.

The Philosophy of Cupping Therapy

Cupping therapy can be used on its own or combined with other types of therapies, such as acupuncture. Like acupuncture, cupping therapy is designed to follow the lines of the meridians. On the back, there are five meridian lines, which is usually where the cups are placed in cupping therapy. In ancient Chinese medicine, it was believed that pain is the result of stagnation, congestion, or blockage of Qi, which in traditional Chinese medicine means the vital energy or life force of the body. This principle functions on the assumption that if the pain is the essence of the disease or medical issue, then the suffering caused is the result of an obstructed flow in the body. In traditional Chinese medicine, cupping therapy is intended to break up these blockages within the body to allow the body’s natural energy to flow properly without any obstruction.

By placing the cups along the meridian lines on the back, the intention is to align and relax Qi and to target more specific ailments that an individual may be suffering from. By placing the emphasis of the cupping therapy on these meridian channels through the body, this alternative medicine treatment will attempt to open the channels and allow vital energy to flow freely through the tissues, organs, and body as a whole. In its essence, cupping therapy is a type of deep tissue therapy that can affect tissues up to four inches deep under the surface of the skin. While cupping therapy is most often performed on the back, cupping therapy can also be done on the legs, wrists, hands, or ankles to offer different benefits and more concentrated healing.

Potential Uses for Cupping Therapy

Cupping therapy can be used for a number of different reasons. The British Cupping Society outlines a number of different disorders that cupping therapy can be used to treat. Below are a number of medical issues that the British Cupping Society identifies that cupping therapy can be utilized to treat.

  • Varicose veins

  • Migraines

  • High blood pressure

  • Fertility and gynecological disorders

  • Blood disorders, such as hemophilia and anemia

  • Skin problems, such as acne and eczema

  • Bronchial congestion caused by asthma and allergies

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Rheumatic diseases, such as arthritis and fibromyalgia

Despite these claims, there have not been a significant number of scientific research studies into the efficacy of cupping therapy as a treatment option. Until more research has been conducted, these claims cannot be verified as definitive.

The Benefits of Cupping Therapy

Despite the lack of scientific research into cupping therapy as a treatment option, there have been many health benefits commonly associated with cupping therapy. Below are a handful of the top benefits of cupping therapy.

  • Helps to reduce pain. Cupping therapy is believed to use suction and negative pressure to help encourage blood flow throughout the body and loosen the muscles, which can help reduce pain and promote healing.

  • Promotes relaxation. Cupping therapy is believed to help reduce feelings of anxiety or depression and to promote feelings of relaxation.

  • Improves skin and circulatory health. Cupping therapy is believed to help improve blood flow through the veins and arteries and to help rid the body of harmful toxins, which improves skin and circulatory health. Cupping therapy has also been used to treat cellulite by applying oil to the surface of the skin before the cups are suctioned and moved around on the surrounding skin.

  • Helps to treat respiratory issues or a cold. Cupping therapy is believed to be beneficial to removing congestion from the lungs due to a common cold or to aid in controlling asthma.

  • Helps to reduce blood pressure. Cupping therapy is believed to have a sedative effect on the nervous system, which can help to reduce blood pressure.

  • Improves digestion. Cupping therapy is believed to have many benefits for the digestive system, including relief from constipation, stronger digestion, and an improved metabolism.

If you are looking to receive the benefits of cupping therapy, it is vital to visit a wellness spa with practitioners that are well-versed in cupping therapy so that you have a safe and relaxing experience. Apotheque offers three different varieties of cupping therapy: a thirty-minute Cupping Detox Massage, a sixty-minute Cupping Full Body Massage, and a ninety-minute Cupping massage and Acupuncture Combo. In order to effectively detox your life, cupping is a great place to start. These cupping techniques are designed to loosen stiff and sore muscles, promote relaxation, detoxify the body, improve skin tone and firmness, pull impurities to the surface of the skin so the lymphatic system can eliminate them naturally, and stimulate blood circulation. To book your appointment online, visit our website.

lifestyleSabrina Angeli