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Cupping therapy

Cupping therapy

To create localized pressure by a vacuum, cupping therapy uses glass or plastic cups. By using heat inside cups made of glass or bamboo, the Chinese have been doing this since ancient times.

Currently, cupping sets use suction to create the vacuum. The vacuum inside the cups causes the blood to form in the area and so helps the healing of that area.


Practitioners of ancient Chinese medicine believe that the body contains “Meridians”. These meridians are pathways in the body through which flows the energy of life called Qi or chi. This energy flows through every body part, organ and tissue. Five meridians are located in a person’s back, because of which cupping therapy is mainly done on the back. The internal energy is able to flow through the whole body when these meridians are opened.


Release of the toxins in the body is yet another healing aspect of cupping therapy. The suction from the cups can cause the tissues to release harmful toxins by penetrating deep into the tissues. Cupping triggers the lymphatic system, stretches and activates the skin, and clears the blood vessels.


Ancient records dating back to 3500 years have mentioned cupping therapy and many alternative medicine practitioners use it until now. Currently, the uses of cupping therapy range for many different treatments and applications, and new advancements in technology and materials have been integrated with it.



Cupping therapy works by reducing the pain you feel in your body. Alternative medicine believes that pain is caused by problems related to the flow of Qi. This could be related to stress in the body, lack of blood flow, temperature in the muscles and joints, and imbalances of hormones and fluids.


When you undergo cupping therapy, very soon you will feel that the pain is reduced; this is because when the suction cup is placed on a problem area, the vacuum pull of the cup creates warmth and circulation in that area.


All the organs are believed to be connected together in Chinese medicine. This means that the health of other parts of your body can be affected if you have a problem with one organ. For instance, it is believed that the kidneys are connected to a person’s aging; a person will experience more graying of the hair, wrinkled and dry skin in case he/she has an imbalance or disease in the kidneys.


Cupping therapy can be applied in many treatments because its use has many benefits. Listed below are some of the conditions in which cupping therapy can be used:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight problems
  • Constipation, IBS, diarrhea
  • Sciatica
  • Back pain
  • Skin problems
  • Arthritis
  • Period cramps
  • Headaches



Some of the various types of cupping are:


Light cupping:

In this method, a weak suction is used in the cup to do light cupping. It should be used in elderly people and children.


Medium cupping:

This is a medium strength, general purpose cupping.


Strong cupping:

This method isn’t suitable for children and elderly people because its suction is great.


Massage cupping or moving cupping:

This method is done by applying oil to the skin and moving the cup by a weak suction on the area that needs to be treated. This is a great method of massage.


Needle cupping:

In this method, cupping and acupuncture are done in the same place. The needle is applied first, and then the cup is applied over it.


Hot cupping:

Dried Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris) leaves, also called Moxa, its oriental name, is a great warming herb. A needle that is warmed by Dried Mugwort is used, and then the cup is applied over it.


Flash cupping:

In this method, several medium cuppings are performed several times in quick succession along the area being treated to stimulate it.


Bleeding cupping:

This is the oldest, most frequently used method, and it’s usually the most effective one. The skin is scraped by a surgical instrument, and then the cup is applied to collect blood. It is also called Wet Cupping or Full Cupping.


Herbal cupping:

In this method, a suitable herbal tincture is put into the cup, and then suction is applied.


Water cupping:

In this method, one third of the cup is filled with warm water. While holding the cup close to the patient with one hand, it is brought to the point to be cupped, burning cotton wool is inserted into the cup, and then the cup is swiftly and simultaneously turned onto the skin. The water doesn’t spill if this method is performed properly. It is the least practiced one.



When using cupping, you should always take sensible precautions, and you should make sure that the therapist you seek follows these precautions:

  • Sterilization, which is the main key to success.
  • Extra care with children and elderly
  • Using suitable cups for the area that is being treated
  • Don’t use cupping on inflamed or cut skin
  • Don’t apply strong cupping to the face
  • Don’t treat people with a serious heart condition
  • Take extra care when scraping the skin and don’t cut an artery or a vein.
  • Don’t treat pregnant women



In an article published in the Journal of biomechanics in 2005, researchers have stated that in acupuncture treatments, cupping is known to be an effective alternative to needles in stimulating acupoints. They also said that because the skin isn’t penetrated in cupping therapy, one of its major advantages is its avoidance of the transmission of blood-borne diseases.


So cupping therapy can be used in conjunction with acupuncture, or as an alternative to it. Many researchers have investigated and demonstrated the benefits of cupping, and they believe that very soon, it will be the most used alternative medical practice.

Prepared By: Dr. Mehyar Al-khashroum
Edited By: Miss Araz Kahvedjian


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