What is Cupping?
Cupping therapy is an ancient form of alternative medicine in which a therapist puts special cups on your skin for a few minutes to create suction. People get it for many purposes, including to help with pain, inflammation, blood flow, relaxation and well-being, and as a type of deep-tissue massage.
Cupping therapy might be trendy now, but it’s not new. It dates back to ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern cultures. One of the oldest medical textbooks in the world, the Ebers Papyrus, describes how the ancient Egyptians used cupping therapy in 1,550 B.C.
During cupping, your therapist will put a flammable substance in a cup and set it on fire. As the fire goes out, they put the cup upside down on your skin.
As the air inside the cup cools, it creates a vacuum. This causes your skin to rise and redden as your blood vessels expand. The cup is generally left in place for up to 3 minutes.
The British Cupping Society says that cupping therapy is used to treat:
- Blood disorders such as anaemia and haemophilia
- Rheumatic diseases such as arthritis and fibromyalgia
- Fertility and gynecological disorders
- Skin problems such as eczema and acne
- High blood pressure
- Anxiety and depression
- Bronchial congestion caused by allergies and asthma
- Varicose veins
(There isn’t research to back all of that up.)
The most common misunderstanding regarding one of the most powerful and beneficial after effects of cupping is the marks that sometimes result.
CUPPING MARKS ARE NOT BRUISES. Bruising is caused by impact trauma, with compressed breakage of capillaries and leakage of red blood cells. Bruises are painful to the touch. When cupping is performed, there is no compression, and no internal or external damage to the skin or soft tissue.
Cupping marks are NOT painful. The vacuum formed by cupping draws up the old, non-circulating stagnant blood and sticky fluids from the area, bringing them to the surface and away from the injury site so that healthy, free circulation can be restored to the affected area, thus creating space for oxygen, living cells and nutrients for faster recovery. Cupping can leave marks which indicates that the stagnation or even disease has been moved from the deeper tissue layers, up to the surface.
The colour and pattern of the marks depend on the level of stagnation in the area, and they range from bright red to dark purple, usually lasting 3 days to a week (sometimes longer if the person is sedentary).