Originally developed over thousands of years ago, the Chinese treatment of cupping therapy has found its way into modern-day medicine. It’s an ancient practice in which small glass or plastic cups are placed on the skin. Suction is generated using one of two methods. A small fire is created in the cup using a flammable substance such as rubbing alcohol or paper. As soon as the fire goes out, the cup is applied to the skin. As the air cools, it creates a vacuum, causing the skin and underlying muscle to be pulled into the cup. In modern treatments, cups may have small rubber pumps, which allow the air to be drawn out without using fire.
The ultimate goal of cupping is to enhance circulation, relieve pain, fight fatigue, and release toxins from the body, among many other benefits. While cupping can be performed on its own, it’s frequently combined with acupuncture in a single treatment.
Over the course of a cupping treatment, cups are typically left on the body for 5 to 15 minutes. During this time, the skin becomes red due to the congestion of blood flow. This discoloration may last anywhere from a few days to few weeks. There may also be some slight bruising, which shouldn’t be painful. Once the marks have disappeared, the treatment can be repeated until the condition is resolved.
As with most traditional Chinese medicine, cupping treatments are unique to each individual and their current needs. It shouldn’t be used on people who bleed easily or have skin ulcers.