Updated: Jan 14
Oftentimes, my clients ask me what does cupping therapy do? Instead of explaining the hard-to-understand theories and systems of traditional Chinese medicine, I give them a simple answer — detoxification. This is a western concept that I find more relatable in nowadays, and is definitely one of the most important functions of cupping therapy. But how does cupping help for detoxification?
Cupping therapy is a minimally invasive treatment. The suction effect of cupping breaks the blood vessels underneath skin, causing hyperaemia in the area. The self-healing process is activated when the body receives signals of this minor injury. A series of chemical reactions follow, aiding an increase of blood circulation and lymphatic flow. The enhanced blood flow helps your body by flushing built-up toxins through the lymphatic system which is responsible for eliminating your body's toxins and waste, as well as reducing the retention of body fluid.
What are the benefits of cupping?
As a result of detoxification, cupping helps ease the muscle pain, diminishes the swelling in tissues, speeds up the metabolism rate, and strengthens the defense system. Recent researches also show that cupping therapy helps to:
Reduce musculoskeletal pain: lower back pain, neck pain, shoulder pain and fibromyalgia
Induce comfort: muscle relaxation and reduce anxiety
Alleviate digestive problems: Bloating, gastric reflux and constipation conditions
Good for improving recovery: Cough, asthma and common cold
Good for skin issues: Eczema, urticaria, allergic dermatitis
What do your cupping color tells you?
Many will agree that the red or purplish “giant hickeys” are the most fascinating yet puzzling thing about cupping. If you look closer, you may find that some marks are darker than the others and different areas may have different colors. But do the colors mean anything?
In traditional Chinese medicine, red cupping mark signifies severe heat. Bluish cupping mark indicates cold or dampness, dark purple means stagnation. The darker color, the more exuberance of the pathogenic Qi (Vital energy). When my clients first come to me for the cupping therapy, they are astonished by how dark the marks were. However, the marks will be getting lighter and lighter after each session, meaning the qi and blood flow are unblocked by the cupping therapy.
As different acu-points are connecting to different organ systems so if a particular system is off balance, the marks on certain points will reflect the conditions with darker color or even blisters.
When will the marks go away?
The marks will slowly fade after 5-10 days depending on the circulation and skin’s regenerative ability. The light the color, the faster it fades. If it is light pink, it will fade within an hour but if it is dark purple then it will take up to 2 weeks. If you do not wish to have marks on certain areas, you could let me know beforehand and I will tactfully stay away from those areas.
How many kinds of cupping therapies are there?
There are mainly three different kinds of cupping techniques I usually perform on my clients:
1, Fixed cupping: A small cotton fire soaked in alcohol is lit up, inserted into the cup for 1-2 seconds, quickly removed and cups are swiftly placed onto the body. You will feel a slightly tight sensation and a suction around the cupped area. The cups are usually left on the body for about 10 minutes.
2, Sliding cupping: Oil is applied onto the body and the cups are pushed gently along meridians of the body for about 5 minutes. This technique can cover all the acu-points along the meridians and is usually used on the back and thigh areas.
3, Wet cupping: This is a type of bloodletting cupping. Small punctures are made in specific areas of the body using a specialized lancet needling device followed by regular fixed cupping on the point. This will allow the stagnated blood to come out through the lacerated skin and will be collected in the cups. This is similar to an Islamic bloodletting technique called “Hijama”, however, a TCM practitioner will focus more on the acu-points along the meridians
Who is suitable for cupping?
Cupping is generally safe and suitable for everyone when applied by trained professionals. However, it may result in bruising, burns, pain at cupping sites, or skin infection if you do not pay attention to the after care.
It is advised not to take a shower or bath right after cupping, since all pores are open and external pathogens could easily get into the body. If it is wet cupping it will require at least 24 hours before you could have contact with water.
It is not recommended as a replacement for mainstream medication or treatments.
It is not suitable for patients who have blood diseases, or a bleeding tendency or taking blood thinners such as warfarin.
It is advised to avoid cupping on sensitive areas such as nipples, or abdominal area and lower back of pregnant woman.