Cupping Therapy

Cupping Therapy

What is cupping?

Cupping involves the use of suction cups to create a vacuum effect on the skin. It is a Traditional Chinese Medicine technique used to alleviate pain by stimulating muscles and fascia, calm the nervous system, promote blood and lymph flow at a specific site and to eliminate pathogens from the body. Practitioners frequently use cupping alongside other techniques for the quick relief of back, neck and shoulder pain. They may also use it to ease the symptoms of colds and flus by stimulating the immune system.

How does cupping work?

Traditionally, cups are made from glass, bamboo or earthenware. Your practitioner uses a flame inside the cup to create heat, which then cools and creates the desired suction effect when applied to the patients skin. Cups come in a variety of sizes and can be left stationary on the skin or the practitioner can glide them over the patients skin to create a sensation similar to massage. They may also be gently applied and removed rapidly and repeatedly.

I often liken the sensation of cupping to when someone gives the tops of your shoulders a nice big squeeze – it feels tight but satisfying and relieving.  Like acupuncture needles, cups are often placed over acupoints or meridians to have specific effects on local areas. They are usually left on for 5-10 minutes. Due to the suction, blood vessels expand causing red marks to remain on the skin. These marks usually last 1-2 days and are not indicative of trauma. Patients describe this treatment as soothing and painless with fast results.

What is Gua Sha?

Another similar technique to cupping is Gua Sha. Gua Sha involves the practitioner using a blunt instrument to vigorously slide along the patients skin. This is done until redness (“sha”) appears at the skin surface. The purposes of this technique are very similar to those of cupping and it is a particularly effective treatment for reducing fever.