Does your skin look less toned? Do you suffer from allergies and digestive issues on a regular basis? Perhaps you feel like stress has taken over your life? Do you have less energy overall and feel unwell?
Aches, pains, and brief bouts of illness are a natural part of life and often come and go. Our bodies are hardworking machines, and even when we take good care of them, there’s no guarantee that we’ll stay healthy or feel well all of the time.
Whether you are trying to find a natural remedy for aches and pains or want to eliminate stress in your busy life, we will give you all the information you need to know about cupping therapy and how it can benefit your health.
What Is Cupping Therapy?
Maybe you’ve heard of cupping from the latest celebrity news magazine or saw a news report about cupping and athletes but still don’t know what it is or how it benefits you.
Cupping therapy, or suction cup therapy, is an alternative medicine that is designed to treat several health-related issues. The practitioner, who has extensive training in cupping, puts special cups on your skin. These cups can be made of glass, bamboo, earthenware, and even silicone.
There are three basic types of cupping massage, and we will describe them in greater detail:
Dry Cupping Therapy
In a dry cupping massage. The cups are placed on your skin for a short period (usually about ten minutes) until a suction forms. Once a suction occurs the cups are often moved gently and slowly across the skin; your practitioner may call this gliding cupping.
During this process, the suction in the cups causes the skin and the superficial muscle layer (or the layer closest to the surface of your skin), to be gently drawn into the cup.
Cupping acts as a suction massage; kind of the opposite of a traditional deep tissue massage. Rather than putting pressure on the muscle, the light suction pulls the muscles upward. There are three basic types of cupping massage, and we will describe them in greater detail:
Wet Cupping Therapy
Wet cupping is essentially the same process as dry cupping, but the practitioner makes tiny cuts into the raised (or suctioned) skin after about five minutes. This “wet” procedure is designed to help eliminate toxic blood and other fluids.
The cuts may be made with a three-pronged needle, lancets, or scalpels. The cut is treated with antiseptic ointments and bandages to ensure a fast healing process and prevent any infection.
Fire Cupping Therapy
Fire cupping is the most common way to create a suction when massage cupping (other ways may include an air pump). The practitioner soaks a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol, sets it on fire, places it in the cup, and puts the cup on the body.
Another method of fire cupping involves swabbing rubbing alcohol directly onto the bottom of the cup, lighting it, and putting it on the skin.
Although the fire cupping method may sound a bit hazardous, the flames are never used on or near the skin. The fire creates just enough heat to create suction within the small cups.
Brief History of Cupping Therapy
Cupping therapy is becoming increasingly popular, but it’s hardly a new method for treating a variety of ailments. History reveals that cupping dates back to over 5,000 years ago. It is the oldest form of healing therapy used in traditional Chinese healing and was used by a well-known Taoist, Ge Hong (281-341 A.D.).
Ancient Chinese cupping therapy has the most documentation, but other countries such as the Balkans, Bulgaria, and Egypt have a long history of using the therapy. Some evidence reveals that North American Native Americans also performed cupping.
While earthenware and bamboo were materials used in many ancient cupping practices, horns and shells were also used.
Is Cupping Therapy Safe?
Like any type of medicine, whether traditional or alternative, it’s always a smart idea to question its safety. Many people may have specific concerns about fire cupping, in particular, and whether or not it’s safe. It’s important to remember that, when done properly, the flame used in fire cupping does not touch the skin.
Cupping therapy, regardless of its method, is safe as long as it’s done by someone who has professional training. Although cupping may appear to be a relatively simple process, it should never be attempted in one’s own home (unless a professional is doing the cupping).
Cupping is not proven to be a safe treatment for children, the elderly, or women who are pregnant or menstruating.
How Does Cupping Therapy Work?
Now that you’ve learned a bit more about cupping, you’re probably wondering, “How does cupping work?” As we mentioned briefly, the cup forms a suction on the body (where the cups are placed) and gently pulls the skin and superficial muscle up into the cup.
The suctioning of the skin expands the capillaries and increases the flow of fluid in the skin’s tissues. Cupping also improves blood circulation, which directly affects the healing process by speeding it up and giving it a bit of a boost.
Additionally, pain and soreness lessen as the flow of blood improves. As with the wet cupping process, the intention is to draw toxins out of the body and stimulate healthy circulation and blood.
Side Effects of Cupping Therapy
While cupping is regarded as a safe procedure, particularly if you go to a trained professional, it’s not uncommon to experience some side effects. If you do experience any side effects, they are most likely to occur during or shortly after the treatment.
If you have sensitive skin, you may experience a greater degree of side effects than others. The following side effects are common, but if you experience anything out of the ordinary or for an extended period, talk with a health care professional:
Dizziness and Nausea
If you experience lightheadedness, feel dizzy, nauseous, or even sweaty, you might be concerned. These symptoms are common during the detoxification process that occurs with cupping therapy.
Side effects, like nausea and feeling dizzy, are more likely to be intense during or after your first session. Side effects are likely to improve or disappear as you have more treatments.
If you’ve ever seen someone, who has had cupping therapy, you may have noticed circular marks that look like bruises. Bruising is common as the suction during cupping brings blood to the surface of the skin. Bruises may last for a few days or a few weeks. The more often you do cupping, the less likely it is to have noticeable bruising.
While a cupping practitioner takes great care to avoid skin burns, a mild burn is possible, particularly if the rim of the cup is heated (versus lighting the cotton swab on fire). A slight burn may also lead to scarring.
Pain and discomfort
Cupping is not supposed to be a painful procedure, but it’s not uncommon to feel mild discomfort with the pressure of the suction. If you undergo wet cupping, you may experience mild pain at the incision site.
As with most types of treatments, an infection is always a possible side effect. An experienced practitioner should always follow the right methods for cleaning your skin and preventing infection before and after your cupping session.
It’s also important that you follow any instructions that the practitioner gives you for self-care after the procedure.
Health Benefits of Cupping Therapy
If cupping is an ancient medicine that continues to be popular today, there must be some health benefits, right? Many newcomers and people who are interested in cupping want to know, “what does cupping do for the body?”
Cupping is a treatment that is used on a variety of health ailments and in addition to increasing blood circulation, it improves one’s health overall. Here are five common health benefits of cupping:
1. Cupping Therapy Helps Maintain Healthy Skin
Does your skin look dull or do you have acne that doesn’t seem to go away? There are many factors, such as environment and diet, that contribute to the health of our skin. Even if you have a daily skin regimen, your skin may not be healthy.
Just one of the many benefits of cupping. Cupping can help to reduce skin issues like herpes, acne, and most types of skin inflammation and impurities, thanks to the increased blood flow.
Increased blood flow keeps your muscles and tissues healthy and increases collagen production, too. Do you have cellulite? Most people do, but cupping can help reduce the severity of it and make your skin feel and look more toned and firm.
2. Reduces Stress and Promotes Relaxation
Do you work long hours, have a busy schedule, and feel like you rarely have a moment to yourself? Life often gets busier than we want it to be and as a result, stress seems to rule our lives and be the root of many health issues.
Stress can negatively affect your mental and physical health, putting you at a greater risk for health issues from high blood pressure to a lowered immune system. Fortunately, cupping treatments can help reduce stress and make you feel more relaxed.
For some people, just taking the time to lie down in a quiet room and having someone take care of you is instantly relaxing. Cupping has many of the same relaxation benefits as a traditional massage.
As we mentioned earlier, cupping is much like a reverse massage, but it still works effectively at loosening tight muscles. You’re likely to walk away from a cupping session feeling more relaxed and even have a little more energy.
3. Cupping Therapy Improves Digestion
Digestive issues are common, and many things are to blame such as lifestyle choices or even genetics. Additionally, digestive issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), often accompany and stem directly from stress.
When your digestive system isn’t functioning properly, cupping may help decrease or eliminate stomach pains, diarrhea, loss of appetite, water retention, and various gastrointestinal diseases.
If you could benefit from improved digestion, your practitioner is likely to cup around and pay special attention to areas of your navel, over the bladder, around the kidneys, and over the stomach.
4. Cupping Therapy Reduces Pain and Inflammation
If you’re like the millions of adults who suffer from chronic pain and inflammation, you’re probably trying to find a safe, alternative method for treating and managing your pain.
Maybe you have an old injury or another condition that causes frequent pain but are tired of the current treatments you are already using like medications.
Prescription and OTC medications are only so effective in the long-term treatment of pain, and they can also be unsafe or have nasty side effects.
If you suffer from chronic back or neck pain or have migraines, cupping can relax the deep tissue in the body. As a result, tense muscles loosen up, and stiffness may begin to subside.
Frequent and chronic pain is more likely to occur when your muscles aren’t getting sufficient oxygen and nutrients. Remember, cupping increases the blood flow and as a result, nutrients and oxygen are carried to an injured area, which can lessen the pain.
5. Can Help Treat Respiratory Conditions (As Well As the Common Cold)
Respiratory issues can make you feel tired and unwell all the time. Do you have allergies, asthma or did you catch a cold from someone at work? If so, cupping can reduce symptoms related to respiratory conditions.
Historically, tuberculosis was one of the first (and most common) respiratory illnesses to receive cupping therapy. Today, it can help treat all types of temporary and chronic respiratory illnesses.
How does it work? We already know that cupping is responsible for increasing blood flow. However, it also moves lymphatic fluid throughout your body. The result? An improved immune system. Basically, cupping keeps your blood and other vital fluids from going “stagnant.”
Cupping may not prevent respiratory illnesses. However, it can speed up the healing process and decrease the severity of your symptoms or your need to use other treatments.