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Cupping Therapy


Cupping Q & A

By Qineng Tan, L.Ac., Ph.D. & Xiaomei Cai, L.Ac., Ph.D.

What is cupping?

Cupping is a healing modality that uses suction to move blood and energy (Qi) from inside the body out towards the surface. It encourages more blood flow in a particular area. It is usually used as an additional treatment in conjunction with acupuncture and/or massage.

How does it work?

There are a few different techniques. Most commonly heat is used: a flame is lit inside a glass or bamboo cup, which burns oxygen to create a negative pressure. Then the cups are placed against the skin in the affected area, usually along a meridian line. Another way is to use a pump to pull air out of the cup. A cup might be firmly attached to one localized area for 10-15 minutes. Another technique is “moving” or “walking” cupping, during which the cup might be moved around along both sides of the spine or in a circular motion on the back.

Where does cupping come from? How long have people been doing this?

Many ancient healing traditions, particularly from Asian and Eastern European cultures, have used cupping as part of their healing systems. In China, the documented use of cupping for medical purposes goes back for 3000 years.

What kind of cups are used?

Traditionally, cups were made of bamboo or clay. Nowadays, we most commonly use cups made of smooth, rounded glass that can be sterilized.

What kind of health condition is cupping good for?

  • Injuries that involve blood stagnation, such as muscle strain, benefit from having excessive blood removed, reducing swelling and inflammation in the area.
  • Arthritic pain can be relieved by removing dampness and blood stasis to reduce inflammation.
  • Muscle spasm, stiffness and tightness due to tension can be released by cupping.
  • Cold or flu at the very beginning. Cupping can help stimulate the body’s defense system to fight off viral infection.
  • Detoxification: cupping can help remove pathogens and is very helpful when going through a detoxification process; it helps draw toxins out from deep in the internal organs.

These are just a few of the most common reasons we might use cupping, but there are many times that it can be helpful. Many conditions that involve stagnation or blockage in the body, such as chest (cold) congestion or coughs, even asthma, can be alleviated by the heat and suction that cupping on the upper back creates.

What sort of condition would cupping NOT be good for?

Cupping is not for every body or every condition. If you are weak, suffering from some type of physical deficiency, then cupping could draw energy out of you, weakening your body further. In that case, acupuncture, moxa and herbal treatment without cupping would be better, because they work to strengthen the body.

Are there any side effects?

Those round bruises you have seen in pictures are very common. This is actually a good sign; it shows that blood has been brought to that area and concentrated there. The bruises may last about a week, but they are nothing to worry about. It is also possible that occasionally a blister will form. This, too, shows that fluid has been pulled towards the surface. Blisters should not be popped, just left alone to be absorbed and healed naturally.

Obviously, it is crucial that cupping be performed by someone who is trained and experienced with this technique. Care must be taken so that the skin is not burned, and the timing is very important to achieve the desired results.

How many cupping treatments would I need?

Cupping is not done “in a vacuum.” Normally, cupping would be part of a broader treatment, involving acupuncture, herbal formulae, massage, and other modalities. How many treatments you might need depends on the history and severity of your condition. For example, when people go through our One Week Detox Program, they receive 3 treatments combining acupuncture and cupping over a period of 7 days.

What do I do after I’ve had cupping?

We advise that people do not bathe or swim for at least 2 hours after a cupping treatment. Also, avoid drinking or eating anything icy cold, or exposing yourself to wind. Stay warm, drink tea. Cupping “opens up” channels in the body, allowing energy and fluid to get out. We don’t want anything cold and damp “getting in” at this time.

I’m ready to try cupping! What should I do?

Call us and schedule an appointment! 310-451-5522

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