What is Cupping?

You may have heard of cupping. It’s received a fair amount of media coverage over the past few years: several celebrities have proudly displayed their cupping marks on the red carpet and various athletes (including Andy Murray) claim to use cupping as a secret weapon.

As a traditional acupuncturist, I am trained in the use of cupping and often carry it out as an ancillary part of an acupuncture treatment. Cupping has been around for thousands of years, not only in ancient China, but also in other civilisations such as ancient Egypt, the Middle East and Native America.

A good way to understand cupping is to consider it as the inverse of massage. Instead of pressing into the skin, cups are used to create a vacuum which draws skin, tissue and muscle upwards. The purpose of cupping is to enhance circulation, relieve pain and draw out toxins from the body’s tissues.

Cupping creates a tight sensation, which most people find relaxing and soothing. Since skin is drawn upwards into the cup, this technique can cause the skin to become red or purple and blotchy, leaving circular marks behind. These marks are generally not painful, but can take a few days to fade.

Cups can be positioned in fixed places, often on the back, and left for up to 10 minutes. Alternatively, they can be moved around over a certain area. Oil is used to ensure the cups glide smoothly over the skin.

Cupping as described above is known as “dry cupping”. Another technique, known as “wet cupping”, is a combination of suction and controlled medicinal bleeding. In this case the objective is to release a small quantity of blood into the cup in order to remove harmful toxins. I tend to focus on dry cupping in my practice.

Cupping works by stimulating the flow of blood, qi (vital energy in Chinese Medicine) and lymph to the affected area which all helps to encourage healing.

Cupping is used with the aim of providing relief from a wide range of conditions, most notably:

  • Back pain/muscle aches/neck & shoulder pain

  • Colds/flu/fever/sneezing

  • Rheumatic diseases such as arthritis and fibromyalgia

  • Stress & anxiety

  • Fatigue

  • Bronchial congestion caused by allergies, asthma & respiratory disease

The British Cupping Society recommends that cupping should not be used on pregnant or menstruating women, people with metatastic cancer or those with bone fractures or muscle spasms.

If you are interested in finding out more about cupping, contact me on 07910 262144.