What is cupping?
Cupping is a type of alternative therapy that originated in China. It involves placing cups on the skin to create suction. The suction may facilitate healing with blood flow.
Proponents also claim the suction helps facilitate the flow of “qi” in the body.
Cupping increases blood circulation to the area where the cups are placed. This may relieve muscle tension, which can improve overall blood flow and promote cell repair. It may also help form new connective tissues and create new blood vessels in the tissue.
What are the different types of cupping?
Cupping was originally performed using animal horns. Later, the “cups” were made from bamboo and then ceramic. The suction was primarily created through the use of heat. The cups were originally heated with fire and then applied to the skin. As they cooled, the cups drew the skin inside.
Modern cupping is often performed using glass cups that are rounded like balls and open on one end.
There are two main categories of cupping performed today:
Dry cupping is a suction-only method.
Wet cupping may involve both suction and controlled medicinal bleeding.
With dry cupping, the cup is set in place for a set time, usually between 5 and 10 minutes. With wet cupping, cups are usually only in place for a few minutes before the practitioner removes the cup and makes a small incision to draw blood.
After the cups are removed, the practitioner may cover the previously cupped areas with ointment and bandages. This helps prevent infection. Any mild bruising or other marks usually go away within 10 days of the session.
What conditions can cupping treat?
Cupping has been used to treat a wide variety of conditions. It may be particularly effective at easing conditions that create muscle aches and pains.
Since the cups can also be applied to major acupressure points, the practice is possibly effective at treating digestive issues, skin issues, and other conditions commonly treated with acupressure.
A 2012 review of studiesTrusted Source suggests cupping therapy’s healing power may be more than just a placebo effect. The researchers found that cupping therapy may help with the following conditions, among others:
- facial paralysis
- cough and dyspnea
- lumbar disc herniation
- cervical spondylosis
Cupping therapy effects:
There is converging evidence that cupping can induce comfort and relaxation on a systemic level and the resulting increase in endogenous opioid production in the brain leads to improved pain control. Other researchers proposed that the main action of cupping therapy is to enhance the circulation of blood and to remove toxins and waste from the body. That could be achieved through improving microcirculation, promoting capillary endothelial cell repair, accelerating granulation and angiogenesis in the regional tissues, thus helping normalize the patient’s functional state and progressive muscle relaxation.
Cupping may be an effective method of reducing low density lipoprotein (LDL) in men and consequently may have a preventive effect against atherosclerosis and cardiovascular diseases (CVDs).
Cupping therapy can significantly lower the number of lymphocytes in the local blood related to the affected area with an increase in the number of neutrophils, which is one of the antiviral mechanisms that reduces the pain scores.
Loss of blood along with vasodilation tends to increase the parasympathetic activity and relaxes the body muscles which benefit the patient and could also be associated with the after effects of cupping.
Furthermore, the loss of blood is thought to increase the quality of the remaining blood that improves pain symptoms. It has also been found that cupping increases red blood cells RBCs.
There is also a significant reduction in blood sugar in diabetic patients after cupping.
There aren’t many side effects associated with cupping. The side effects you may experience will typically occur during your treatment or immediately after.
You may feel lightheaded or dizzy during your treatment. You may also experience sweating or nausea.
After treatment, the skin around the rim of the cup may become irritated and marked in a circular pattern. You may also have pain at incision sites or feel lightheaded or dizzy shortly after your session.
Infection is always a risk after undergoing cupping therapy. The risk is small and usually avoided if your practitioner follows the right methods for cleaning your skin and controlling infection before and after your session.
Other risks include:
scarring of the skin