What is cupping?

Cupping is a wonderful technique that can improve your health and provide numerous benefits.

One way to think about cupping is that it is the reverse of massage. Rather than applying pressure to muscles, the suction uses pressure to pull skin, tissue and muscles upward. I often combine cupping with TuiNa or acupuncture into one treatment, but it could also be used alone.

Cupping was developed thousands of years ago and though the techniques have modernised, the original philosophy remains the same.

Cupping involves placing glass (bamboo or plastic) jars on the skin and creating a vacuum by suction. The underlying tissue is raised or sucked partway into the cup. The purpose of cupping is to enhance circulation, help relive pain, remove heat and pull out the toxins that linger in your body’s tissues.

You will usually feel a tight sensation in the area of the cup. Often, this sensation is relaxing and soothing. Depending on your comfort and my assessment of the problem, cups may be moved around or left in place. They may remain on your body briefly or for longer amounts of time. Each treatment is unique to you on that particular day. One very common area to be cupped is the back, although cups work well on other areas too, particularly on fleshy sections of the body.

Cupping causes the skin to temporarily turn red, blue or purple, especially if there is an injury or energetic blockage under the area that was cupped. The skin discolouration can last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks, but is rarely painful. Once the marks have cleared, the procedure can be repeated until the condition or ailment is resolved.

The benefits of cupping are very good if you seek relief from:

  • stress
  • pain
  • allergies
  • fatigue
  • flu
  • colds
  • back pain
  • anxiety
  • muscle aches
  • red itchy skin conditions
  • fever

There are a number of methods of cupping. The two most common are ‘fixed or static cupping’ and ‘moving or sliding cupping’. I also use ‘flash cupping’ quite regularly.

Fixed cupping
The cups are placed on a selected area of your body and then left in place without being moved.

Flash cupping
The cups are placed on areas of your body and removed, and then replaced in a different area in quick succession.

Moving cupping
As the name implies, in this method, massage oil is applied on your skin in selected places. I put the cups over the areas to be treated and then slide them around that region of the body, most commonly the back. The cups slide easily because the oil has lubricated your body.