One of the treatments I offer that my patients are most curious about is cupping. People usually start noticing it a lot right around the Olympics because many athletes utilize the treatment in their training for pain relief and injury therapy. It leaves round, sometimes red or dark-colored marks and because of those markings, people think it hurts. But it doesn’t! In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
How Cupping Works
Cupping is a type of therapy used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It involves creating suction with glass cups placed on specific acupuncture points throughout the body. The cups can be made from glass or other materials and vary in size. Based on my patient’s needs, I’ll determine the correct cup size for the treatment I’d like to perform.
There are 10 types of cupping. I specialize in both stationary and moving cupping using oil, with or without fire. Yes, actual fire! I promise it isn’t as scary as it sounds. Fire cupping involves warming the cup with a small flame before applying it directly to the skin. The cups apply a soft suction to the skin for several minutes, and I will oftentimes pair it with an acupuncture treatment. My kid patients like to call it octopus kisses.
In general, cupping draws fluid to the area of suction, and discoloration due to broken vessels can occur. What might result in the darkening of the skin is also a telltale sign of high levels of toxins or stagnation in that specific section of the body. The darker the mark, the higher the level of non-circulating stagnant bloody and sticky fluids. So when patients see the marks cupping leaves behind, they can appear to look like bruises and thus, give them the impression that cupping hurts. But fear not! There’s no pain involved.
The Benefits of Cupping
Cupping can improve overall blood circulation and in doing so, relieve muscle tension and promote cell repair. TCM practitioners can identify and remove energy blockages to increase the flow of healthy energy or Qi. By drawing these fluids to the surface of the skin, practitioners are clearing any injury or sites of suffering so that healthy blood and oxygen can flow more freely, and relieve pain.
Since suction is allowing fresh blood to penetrate where it may have been stagnant, cupping dissolves toxic damp and blood stasis. With toxic damp, you can feel lethargic or sleepy, or bulky and weighed down. By flushing blood vessels through cupping, we can eliminate dampness in the body and initiate the movement of stagnant blood. Simply put, your body gets a “clean rinse” so to speak, and relief from stuff that’s stuck.
Cupping activates the immune system, in essence, turning it on and enabling a rush of germ-fighting soldiers to set out and defeat maladies within the body. It boosts red blood cells which helps the body deliver oxygen to itself more easily, and that oxygen feeds the immune system. Between the fresh blood and improved oxygen flow, your immunity can get an “upgrade” almost immediately. In fact, many patients with autoimmune diseases like arthritis, psoriasis, and lupus can experience relief from their symptoms with regular cupping treatments.
Cold & Flu Relief
You’re probably catching on by now that the method of creating suction through cupping therapy can free your body of many things. Well, you can add cold and flu symptoms to the list of benefits. Because cupping relieves congestion in your blood vessels and your body, it stimulates your immune system, the flow of fresh, oxygenated blood, and gives your body what it needs in order to heal itself.
Between the fresh blood and improved oxygen flow, your immunity can get an “upgrade” almost immediately.”
Comfort & Calm
Last on my list, but certainly not the least, this therapy can give patients a comforting feeling and a sense of calm. As old blood is replaced with newly oxygenated blood, chock-full of boosting energy, your body’s functions are optimized so that it doesn’t have to work as hard. And this will for sure give you the long-awaited sigh of relief you’ve been needing.
Who Shouldn’t Consider Cupping?
People with bleeding disorders like hemophilia, blood clotting problems, or skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. If you’re menstruating, cupping can wait. Children under the age of 4 and seniors should also avoid, as well as anyone who might be using blood-thinning medication. And definitely, don’t do it if you’re about to be in a bikini on an island vacation somewhere or in a backless black dress at an event–unless you don’t mind the marks!
Before and After Cupping – What to Expect
Just like with acupuncture, you should prepare your mind and body. Make sure you’re hydrated and fed but don’t eat directly before your treatment. I think cupping on an empty stomach is best. Your session should take between 20-30 minutes unless we decide together to do something for longer or less time.
As for after your treatment, there really aren’t any side effects other than the circular marks it leaves behind. Those marks can last up to 10 days but shouldn’t cause you any pain or discomfort. I personally like to show mine off as they are a great conversation starter about the health benefits. What we’ve done in our session together is to naturally allow the healing power of moving fluids throughout your body. You should feel good!