Cupping is a method of applying acupressure by creating a vacuum next to the patient's skin. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) it involves placing glass, plastic, or bamboo cups on the skin with a vacuum. The therapy is used to relieve what is called "stagnation" in TCM terms, and is used in the treatment of respiratory diseases such as the common cold, pneumonia, and bronchitis. Cupping is also used to treat back, neck, shoulder, and other musculoskeletal pain. Its advocates claim it has other applications as well. This technique, in varying forms, has also been found in the folk medicine of Vietnam, the Balkans, modern Greece, Mexico, and Russia, among other places, including Iran where it is called 'bod-kesh' meaning literally 'pull with air'.
Traditionally, the cups are heated with alcohol and flame on the inside to reduce the pressure, then placed over the skin. As the cup cools down, the skin is sucked up inside.
In this day and age, glass cups are used. Three thousand years ago, bamboo, animal horn or brass - if you could afford it - was the order of the day. In fact, the old Chinese name for cupping was 'horning'.
The newest innovation in cupping does away with the dangerous flame and uses a pump action instead. This is also a much more accurate way of gauging the degree of suction and, of course, eliminates the risk of burning.
Doctors of traditional Chinese medicine and practitioners of Japanese shiatsu therapy, place the cups at various positions along the meridian lines. These are the same lines used in acupuncture. There are five meridians on the back and these are usually targeted, particularly the bladder meridian.
It is possible to cup the hands, legs and ankles too. By cupping these meridian lines, specific organs in the body can be targeted.
Cupping is generally used by practitioners if there is cold energy in the patient's meridians. The warm air from the cupping stimulates the skin, and the suction coaxes blood to the area which promotes localized healing. The chi is warmed and starts to flow freely down the meridians.
Benefits of Cupping
Many diseases and disorders can benefit from cupping. The earliest writings found on the therapy from ancient China recommend its use in the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis.
Today, cupping is still used for respiratory disease, as well as digestive and gynecological disorders, headaches and dizziness, and lymphatic blockages. The common cold can be tackled with cupping, as can insomnia and, of course, soft tissue injuries.
The bruises resulting from cupping are not painful and only last a couple of days. If you are keen to experience this therapy for yourself, be sure to go to a trained practitioner; someone who can tell where you need a bit of extra energy and where you don't.