What is Cupping Therapy – Benefits and Side Effects of Cupping

Cupping is a form of alternative medicine which has been practiced all over the world for hundreds of years. The earliest recorded use of this traditional Chinese medicine dates back to the early 4th century. This was noted by the herbalist, Ge Hong, who wrote about it in the book, Handbook of Prescriptions.

Although cupping was widely practiced back then, it was actually overlooked for the last 60 to 70 years. It gained back popularity in the past few years when well-known sports and movie personalities began practicing this holistic method. They would go out exhibiting these big, circular bruises on their backs, which is characteristic of cupping therapy.Michael_Phelps_cupping_therapy

One of the most popular sports personalities who uses cupping therapy is 28 time Olympic gold-medalist, Michael Phelps. He proudly displayed his cupping bruises during the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Other popular personalities who are also advocates of cupping therapy include Jennifer Anniston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Victoria Beckham, Jessica Simpson, and David Arquette. Being celebrities, they somehow contributed to the rising number of cupping fans in the United States.

What is cupping? 

“Where there’s stagnation, there will be pain. Remove the stagnation, and you remove the pain.”

This old quote is basically the principle behind cupping therapy. In traditional Chinese medicine, there is “Qi” which literally means, “air” or “breath”. Figuratively, it means “energy flow”, “life force”, or “vital energy”. 

In essence, when the body’s vital energy, which can also refer to vital fluids, lymph, and blood, is blocked, there will be a resulting pain. So, basically, pain, which equates to disease, is the result of irregular flow in the body. 

Cupping glasses cupping therapyOne of the methods which can correct this irregular flow or blockage is cupping therapy. Cupping therapy uses special cups to create a suction on the skin. These cups may be made of glass, bamboo, earthenware, or silicone. 

In a cupping session, the practitioner will first determine the targeted area or the location of the pain. Once that is determined, the cup will then be placed over those targeted areas. When the cup is placed on the skin, it will create a vacuum which will enable the skin to be drawn into the cup. Creating the vacuum may be done either by heating or cooling the air inside the cup. It will then be left anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes on the surface of the skin.

Benefits of Cupping

Cupping therapy is used for a lot of different purposes. Since it is a deep-tissue massage, it is often for relaxation and overall wellness.

It is specifically popular as a treatment for pain and injury. According to Cupping Resource, cupping therapy removes toxins, dead cells, and lymph, impurities, as well as other debris from the body. Aside from that, it can also remove disease-causing pathogens. 

One of the main reasons why cupping therapy is popular with athletes is its healing effects on the muscles. During the cupping process, the stagnant blood will be removed, thus blood circulation will improve. Chemicals, toxins, and stagnant blood will be removed from the body and will be replaced by fresh blood which is rich in oxygen and nutrients responsible for rejuvenating the body. 

Aside from cupping as a treatment for pain, it also works wonders for people who are suffering from colds, flu, coughs, allergies, and fevers. Research also found out that it is a beneficial treatment for acne, facial paralysis, herpes zoster, and cervical spondylosis.

cupping_therapyThe British Cupping Society listed its specific health benefits including blood disorders such as anemia and hemophilia, rheumatic diseases such as arthritis and fibromyalgia, fertility and gynecological disorders, skin problems, high blood pressure, migraines, bronchial congestion, and varicose veins. It is also known to be a solution for anxiety, depression, and insomnia. Cupping therapy is also used for weight loss and cellulite treatments.

Side Effects of Cupping

If you are considering having a cupping therapy session and are a bit anxious about the risks, don’t worry because cupping doesn’t have many side effects. According to Healthline.com, the side effects are usually only experienced during the treatment or immediately after. These would usually include lightheadedness or dizziness while undergoing the treatment, as well as sweating or nausea.

What Cupping “Bruises” Really Are

Most people who are planning to get a cupping session are worried about the “bruises” or the cupping marks. However, cupping doesn’t actually cause bruises. Rather, if you see those cupping marks, it is a sign that the treatment has been successful in bringing those harmful toxins and pathogens to the surface. According to Cupping Resource, these toxins are located in the deeper tissues of the body, where the dead blood cells are also located. When cupping therapy is being performed, they are being suctioned up to the surface where they will be metabolized via the body’s natural processes.

The color of the cupping marks varies according to the number of toxins in a specific area of the body. A lighter shade means there are a few toxins or stagnation and a darker hue means there is a high level of toxins found. If the color of the cupping mark is lighter, it usually disappears within three days to a week. A darker color would take around three weeks at most.

Why You Should Try Cupping Therapy

Although there are several holistic treatments that can be used to improve wellness, cupping therapy is very promising. With its long list of health benefits and very minimal risks, it is something worth giving a try. If you are a suffering from anxiety, depression, or insomnia, this traditional Chinese medicine could be that treatment you have been waiting for.

About the author

Dr. Gala Gorman is a licensed Acupuncturist, Naturopath, and Author who offers expert advice and programs to help people prevent disease. She uses advanced techniques that "reverse the clock" on aging. She founded the Delta Discovery Center with her partner, Charlie Frangos, to provide a place for self-discovery and healing on Hilton Head Island and beyond. Dr. Gala helps people learn to be their own health advocates.