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What you need to know about Cupping Therapy

Updated on May 30, 2014
Example of the Cups Used
Example of the Cups Used

The Health Benefits of Cupping Therapy

Cupping is definitely one of those alternative eastern therapies that although can raise some eyebrows also do have some obvious health benefits. People who are not familiar with the practice (mostly my family) will look at me in horror when they catch a glimpse of an unsightly bruise showing up on my neck or arm after a session of fire cupping. To most people it does look painful due to most bruises being a result of direct pain and when you touch them admittedly they do still hurt a little. Cupping on the other hand for me has had quite a few benefits. Whilst I’m not saying this is a practice for everyone, its definitely one that has caught my interest.


What is cupping and where did it come from?

Cupping is an Ancient Chinese alternative medicine therapy where a glass or bamboo cup is heated (often with a flame) and applied to the skin to create a suction pulling the skin into the glass. The idea is this will pull all the toxins in the body to the surface so they can be dispelled from the body. Cupping although thought to have origins in China has been linked back to the ancient Egyptians also. Cupping has been used for a wide range of aliments and is still used today a common form of alternative treatment. Traditionally cupping was a way to drain out toxins from snakebites and skin lesions. The Chinese then started to use the therapy to draw blood away from the site surgery was being conducted

What is cupping good for

Although it is claimed scientifically that there are not any benefits to cupping, many people including celebrities say there are many benefits they have experienced after undertaking this practice. The basic practice of cupping is to help align and relax the qi (otherwise known as creating smoother and free-flowing energy within the body). Cupping is believed to affect up to four inches of tissues and is believed to be one of the best deep-tissue therapies.

The main health benefits of cupping is that the toxins can be released from the body and blockages can be cleared allowing the stagnant blood and lymph to flow freely around the body so any illness can be healed. There is great belief that cupping greatly improves respiratory and lung diseases (cold, pneumonia, asthma, bronchitis). It is also believed that cupping when used on the back, neck and shoulder can help alleviate pain as well as arthritis and joint pain. The Egyptians discussed that the use of cupping was able to treat conditions such as fever, pain, vertigo, weakened appetite and menstrual irregularities and to fast track the healing process of diseases.

Until recently cupping was not really supported as having scientific evidence of its healing powers, but recent studies show it helps to relieve back, neck and knee pain as well as carpal tunnel.

The Mark Left Behind After a Cupping Session
The Mark Left Behind After a Cupping Session

The physical side (temporary) effects of cupping

The marks are a result of the cupping which indicates that the stagnation or disease has been released and moved from the deeper tissue layers to the surface which has now been freed to allow for fresh blood to now flow and heal the areas that were suffering the illness. Not everyone has the same result from cupping hence why it is believed to show the level of toxins in each individuals body. Mostly the marks will disappear within a few days, but usually last at least a week or in my case up to 2 weeks, this would just depend on your skins sensitivity and the level of toxins that have been drawn to the surface. The picture below is just a guide, however indicates the marks that may occur on your body and what this could indicate.

What the Marks Can Mean...

moving cupping method
moving cupping method

How does cupping feel and the process

Cupping is the process of creating a suction on the body with negative pressure. It is used as a way to bring toxins, excess fluids to the surface as a way to dispel it from the body and to increase the blood flow to skin and stagnant muscles that may be harbouring disease or illness.

The process of cupping whilst does vary between practitioners generally starts with the person getting the therapy siting or lying down depending on the area to be treated. (Usually the glass cups are applied to large areas of the body that are quite flat such as the back, however depending on the need can sometimes be used on the limbs also). The practitioner then uses a special cotton tip match or tongs holding a cotton ball sometimes dipped in a flammable liquid and then lit. The practitioner than puts the ignited cotton into the glass and then removes it followed immediately with putting the glass onto the skin which the cup acts as a vacuum pulling the skin into the rim of the cup. The heating of the glass then placing on skin creates this suction as the glass cools, this is what draws the toxins up from deep within the body. The practitioner repeats this for the amount of cups required to each person and then leaves them on for around 5-15minutes. A good practitioners will usually put a warm towel over the glasses while leaving you to relax, however will check back on you often to ensure you will not be experiencing to much discomfort. (*note this can be a bit uncomfortable so its important to relax). Once the time has been reached the practitioner will remove the cups by lifting up one side to let the air in to release the suction. (Sometimes this can also be a bit uncomfortable as the cups tend to suction on quite hard in some areas). Once they have all been removed the practitioner will usually give a brief massage on the areas that were treated to finalise the relaxation process. Mostly people who have had the procedure feel a lightness and sense of wellbeing once completed.

Whist it does appear skin is bruised it is not, however there can often be some tenderness in the areas that were treated, however this will only last a few days and depends on the level of stagnation within your body. This is often a side effect that worries people, but rest assured its just the cups doing their job. The more often you get this treatment though the less intense the marking and tenderness, which means the toxins are being removed from your body.

Once treatement has been completed it is recommended that you drink plenty of water to help assist in the toxins being flushed form your system. Also avoid hot baths or showers, excessive or heavy exercise, heavy meals and sunbathing for the 24hrs following your treatment.

Where Can you get cupping done...

Cupping has now become a very common therapy in Australia and can be found in many massage or beauty salons that offer alternative therapies. In Australia particularly you can get cupping before you do your grocery shopping as its offered in many little alternative therapy salons that are very common in shopping centres or malls these days. If you are having difficulty finding places, look for somewhere that offers Chinese medicine or Acupuncture as these are often practices that can compliment or used as an alternative to cupping therapy. Best way is it jump on the trusty internet and just search cupping therapy in your local area and you will be surprised where it is offered as it is quite a common practice now days.

Celebrities who Cup

Cupping therapy is also quite common amongst celebrities, in particular those who are always looking to detox or partake in a cleanse. Aside from its obvious health benefits along with the now widespread practice; the proud display of the cupping marks on the red carpet by celebrities are definitely decreasing any stigmas associated with this therapy. Celebrities such as Gwenyth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston, Victoria Beckham, Denise Richards, Jessica Simpson and David Arquette have been seen with these marks or endorsing their belief in the benefits of the therapy. Gwenyth Paltrow being one of the first celebrities to publicly sport the marks back in 2004 is a strong believer of the benefits of cupping and this has featured in her blog Goop.

Should you cup?

Cupping is a traditional treatment that is favored by many as it is a safe, comfortable and effective treatment for many health conditions. However, cupping is not for everyone and some things should be taken into consideration before you jump into your first session.

1. Can you tolerate a bit of minor discomfort for the procedure? Rest assured though if you are finding the suction a bit to intense just make sure you tell the practitioner who can adjust the cups to suit your tolerance.

2. Are you prepared for the marks that may hang around for a couple days to a couple of weeks that may be a little sore....*note if its your wedding day next week or your planning on spending some serious time in a bikini might be worth putting this off a little while longer as you are bound to draw attention

3. If you have had cupping done in recent weeks are the marks cleared up? It is advisable that you do repeat cupping therapy on a regular basis - however do make sure you give your skin and body a break between sessions and do not have another session till the marks are cleared up.

4. Have you been looking for a treatment that's different and effective? This might be the one for you especially if you are open to alternative therapies

5. Finally, cupping might sound unusual, but its definitely one of those things you need to try first to understand the benefits. Worst case scenario you don't like it and you can tell your friends about the experience, nothing ventured nothing gained as they say.


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