Cupping therapy is an ancient Chinese form of alternative medicine in which a local suction is created on the skin using cups; practitioners believe this mobilizes blood flow in order to promote healing of a broad range of medical conditions.
A vacuum suction is created with a mechanical suction pump acting through a valve located at the top of the cup. The cups can be stationary over acupuncture points, or the skin may be lubricated, allowing the cup to move across the skin slowly, producing a massage-like effect. Cupping is much like the inverse of massage – rather than applying pressure to muscles, it uses gentle pressure to pull them upward. For most patients, this is a particularly relaxing and relieving sensation. The suction and negative pressure provided by cupping can loosen muscles, encourage blood flow, and sedate the nervous system.
Depending on the specific treatment, skin marking is common after the cups are removed. Although cupping can create discolouration of the skin, it is normally mild bruising, from loosening muscles and the breakdown of scar tissue. Usually treatments are not painful, and the bruising disappears quickly.
Cupping is used to relieve back and neck pains, muscle stiffness and tension, anxiety, migraines, and even cellulite.
Adapted from: British Cupping Society. 2008
History of Chinese Cupping