Cupping therapy involves the use of specialized cups or glass jars. These containers are placed, open-end down, on the body in critical locations. Pressure in the cup pulls the skin up, which is the active part of the cupping therapy.
How Does Cupping Work?
The practice of cupping dates back to ancient healing practices in both the Middle East and China. Traditionalists believe the practice helps support proper flow of qi, or life force, in the body. Interestingly, modern medical practitioners know the suction involved in cupping therapy does, in fact, promote blood flow and circulation in certain areas of the body.
Traditional methods of cupping relied on heat and some basic principles of science to create suction. The cups, which were made of animal horns or ceramics, were heated in a fire and then applied to the body. As they cooled, the pressure inside changed, causing suction to occur. Alternatively, something flammable, such as alcohol, might be placed in the cup and lit before the cup is placed over the skin. As the substance burns up, the same pressure and suction situation occurs.
In modern medical practices that provide cupping, a pump is used to create suction. The “cups” may be made of various materials, including silicone. But the concept is the same.
There are two overall types of cupping. The first is known as dry cupping, and it’s the process described above. The other is known as wet cupping. It involves the same process as dry cupping but adds a step where the practitioner makes a small, shallow incision in the skin and uses the cupping to draw out some blood. This is thought to help remove toxins from the body.
Cupping is performed by a variety of practitioners. Chiropractors, acupuncturists, physical therapists, licensed massage therapists and even doctors might offer this as a treatment option.