Basically, Cupping is a form of therapy where Suction cups are placed on the body of the patient by a trained practitioner and then heated with fire.
After heating, the rims of the cups are sealed and the heated cups create a partial vacuum after the cups cool off. This enables the cup to suck the skin, pulling in skin tissue and promoting blood flow.
The concept is similar to acupuncture where “Qi” is drawn to areas with poor blood or lymph circulation in order to create a suction effect which raises the skin and draws the blood to the surface.
It is commonly used throughout the Middle East, Asia, and Europe to treat inflammation, pain, swelling, bronchitis, rheumatism, and even help relief symptoms of the common cold. Recent studies have indicated that it could be a promising form of treatment for a host of various ailments, as well.
The procedure involves using glass or ceramic cups, metal bells, bamboo tubes, and even animal horns! and a wide host of other items. Recently, however, the use of glass jars, plastic, and silicone are the recommended tools.
Those individuals that have had cupping therapy performed have claimed that it feels like a massage in reverse.
Well that’s a basic overview of what cupping is, in the next few chapters we will look at the history of this form of therapy as well as the major benefits.
Believe it or not, while you may have recently heard about cupping therapy, it has been around for quite some time. Despite it all, to this day, the true origin of cupping still remains uncertain – the earliest known use of this therapy is found in the Ebers Papyrus from Egypt, which is 5,000 years old.
In China, it is mentioned in medical treatises that go back some 3,000 years. Yet, its first properly documented use was by a practicing Taoist, alchemist, and a medicinal herbalist named Ge Hong.
Ge Hong was famous during his time as an accomplished healer and a trusted confidante of many high officials in ancient China. He successfully applied cupping to treat a variety of diseases which couldn’t be cured by conventional methods in his time.
Back in the Qing and Tang Dynasty, cupping has been used to treat pulmonary tuberculosis, moxibustion, common colds, back pains, knotted nerves and muscles, and arthralgia. It has also been used for promoting general health and well-being among patients who could afford it.
In modern day China and elsewhere in the world, common glass cups or even fine plastic cups have been used to replace its ancestral animal horns and bamboo. The type of cups have also evolved over time to suit the patients’ needs.
Besides China, Hippocrates, the Greek doctor who composed the Hippocratic Oath, mentions it in 400 BC. The prophet Mohammad recommended the practice in the Koran 1400 years ago, while in Finland, they’ve been doing it since the 15th century.
Cupping has been also found to be used in deep East Asian regions, especially in Northern China, Japan, and the Korean peninsula. Certain areas such as the Middle East use a similar method known as “Wet Cupping”.
Today, Cupping has also been implemented widely in eastern and Western cultures through the process of globalization and it is called by many names including ba gwan, giac hoi, bekam, buhang, and bentusa in Southeast Asia. In the Middle East, it is commonly referred to as hijama, hejamat, and badkesh, among many others.
There are various methods of cupping techniques being used throughout the world, but the two common ones are wet cupping and dry cupping.
Dry cupping is the basic and most common technique that is used. Here, cups are used to create a vacuum over your skin. A combustible material, such as herbs, alcohol or paper will be lit and put into the cup. As the fire goes out, the cup will be placed over the selected area. The cooling air that is inside the cup will create a vacuum, which causes the blood vessels under the skin to redden and expand. The cup may be placed here for up to ten minutes.
In another variation of dry cupping, the cup will be held over a flame to heat the air inside it before it is placed on your skin. Many therapists choose to put a piece of insulating material over the skin and place the lighted material on it before inverting the cup. Don’t worry, because this will extinguish the flame right away, so it’s not going to burn you.
Most who use the dry cupping method use glass cups because they are durable and easy to sterilize. Plus, they create a perfect seal.
Wet Cupping is not used in traditional Chinese medicine, but is still popular around the world. Some studies show it to be more effective in treating some problems such as migraines, nonspecific lower back pain, and post-herpetic neuralgia. As to its other acclaimed health benefits, on the other hand, those remain in contention.
Nevertheless, there are clinics throughout Europe and the Americas which do provide wet cupping services under sterile medical conditions, if you’re interested.
Although it requires bleeding, it should be understood that it is not the same as bloodletting. Bloodletting requires the opening of veins by cutting them with a scalpel, puncturing them with a needle, or by using a leech applied to the skin. This extracts blood with tiny incisions to the skin’s surface after cupping.
In the UK, the clinics that provide this service make use of sterile plastic cups which are disposed of after each use. The patient’s back is first sterilized with alcohol, after which oil is rubbed on the shoulders, as well as the upper and lower back.