Cupping therapy, woman doctor removes cup from the patient's backDuring the summer 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, cupping was all the rage with olympians from around the world. Anyone who watched the Olympic Games saw those bright red and purple circles scattered across the backs of swimmers, divers, and more. Were those Olympic rings, or something else? Turns out it was an alternative form of therapy for muscles called cupping. But what exactly is cupping and could it be right for you?

About Cupping Therapy

Fascinatingly enough, people have been using cupping as a therapy for centuries and history notes that it was used in Egyptian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern Cultures. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, cupping is a method of alternative medicine in which a therapist puts cups made of glass, bamboo, silicone or pottery on a patient’s’ skin for a few minutes to create a suction that can help with a number of conditions including muscle pain and stress. Cupping can be done either dry or wet and the therapist adds flammable substances like oils or alcohol in the cup. As the flame dies out, the cups are placed on the skin and left for about 3 minutes. As the cup cools off, it creates a vacuum on the skin which causes the skin to rise (hence the red and purple circles that were so prominent on the 2016 olympians).

Practitioners who perform cupping in a more modern fashion utilize a pump to create the same suction action that the cups produce. Some therapists use silicone cups and move the cups around the skin to create a movement that mimics deep tissue massage. Cupping treatments vary from therapist to therapist and range from more traditional forms to forms that include the insertion of acupuncture needles following the cupping therapy.

What Cupping Can Treat

Although science has not caught up with the research behind cupping just yet, cupping supporters believe that it can treat a number of conditions such as inflammation and pain, shingles, acne, and more. There have not been many scientific studies conducted yet on cupping, but according to the British Cupping Society, cupping can be used to treat:

  • Rheumatic conditions such as fibromyalgia and arthritis.
  • Gynecological disorders.
  • Skin conditions such as acne and eczema.
  • Headaches including migraines.
  • Blood pressure problems.
  • Depression and anxiety.
  • Allergies, asthma and bronchial conditions.
  • Varicose veins.
  • Paralysis of the face.
  • Shingles.
  • Osteoarthritis.

What You Should Know

For believers, cupping can be a great supplementary treatment for those who are using treatments like medication or acupuncture for some of the conditions listed above. There are a few side effects such as mild burning, possible skin infections, inflammation and discomfort, but overall cupping is thought to be relatively safe. It’s important to choose a qualified and trained TCM practitioner before deciding to try your first cupping treatment. Be sure to talk to your therapist and detail about your medical condition and what treatments you are currently undergoing for your medical condition. It’s also recommended that you ask about their training and level of expertise in cupping as well as how they generally use cupping for their patients.

To learn more about how Traditional Chinese Medicine and acupuncture can help you manage your symptoms, call 832.282.3306 or click here to schedule your appointment today.