What is Cupping Therapy?

By Mihael Mamychshvili, Registered Shiatsu Therapist




Cupping originated many thousands of years ago primarily for the treatment of disease and pain. This has not changed right up to today but, cupping-therapywith modern science and understanding, it has confirmed its rightful place in both beauty therapy and well-being medicine.

Cupping therapy was originally used in China and Egypt dating back some 3,500 years where its use was mentioned in hieroglyphics. Before

the invention of glass, therapists would use cow horns or bamboo to remove blood and poison from the body; clinical experience over the years has advanced its application to many areas.

Even Hippocrates and Galen, two of the most celebrated originators of modern medicine, were advocates of the tremendous benefits, together with Samuel Bayfield who wrote Cupping is an Art in 1823, and surgeon Charles Kennedy talked of its well known benefits in 1826. Hippocrates noted in Greece the use of large glass jars to reduce the dislocation of vertebrae, along with many other symptoms.


Cupping benefits and how it works

The application of Cupping is very simple but its effects are dramatic.
Our health and well-being (immune system) are totally reliant on the movement of blood, Qi (energy) and body fluids (hormones, lymphatic fluid, etc). Oriental Medicine teaches us that all pain is due to stagnation of these systems.

Close-up of vacuum cupping treatment applied to patients back

Close-up of vacuum cupping treatment applied to patients back

Due to the wonderful pulling power and heat that the cups offer, the technique is dramatic in its reduction of pain and hence our feeling of well-being.

This stagnation can be a result of injury, stress, a lack of blood, Qi, or even an invasion of cold in the body and joints. Whatever the cause, Cupping can be applied to specific points as used in acupuncture or, with the application of massage oil, to the area of dysfunction. After a very short time the patient will start to feel warmth and a reduction of pain.
Its use in beauty therapy is based around promoting hormone production, encouraging blood and body fluid movement in the bowels and internal organs, and thus removing harmful toxins that speed up the ageing process and cause other conditions.
Real holistic and beauty therapy should be on balancing all aspects of the body. We all know that wrinkles are primarily caused by individual cells drying out, due to age or too much sun.

Oriental Medicine teaches us that kidney weakness speeds up the aging process leading to dry, damaged hair, early greying or loss of hair. This drying out or imbalance in ladies also shows itself in the early signs of the menopause with hot flushes, night sweats and dry skin. Consequently, by just applying external lotion to the skin area or hair you are dramatically letting your patient down by not accessing the root cause.

The benefits of cupping therapy are endless.

Due to its stimulating and strengthening effects cupping has been used successfully to treat all of the following:

  • Bowel conditions (IBS, constipation and diarrhea)
  • Headaches, back pain, arthritis
  • Period pain (cramps)
  • Motor Vehicle Injuries
  • Asthma
  • Cellulite
  • Fatigue (ME)
  • Anemia
  • Depression and emotional problems
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Sciatica
  • Common cold and flu
  • Skin problems
  • Blood pressure
  • Menstrual cycle irregularities
  • Weight loss, and more


Applying the cupping technique 

Cupping is applied to the body by introducing a naked flame (or suction gun) to the cup to create a vacuum, which is then applied to the skin and draws a little up to seal itself. The amount of pressure applied varies with the size of the flame. Usually in the West we use much less pressure than the Chinese would, due to the expected skin color changes.

As with all therapies, and therapists or practitioners, safety must come first, especially when you are using a naked flame and glass around patients. By following these basic rules you should ensure maximum safety (with the use of a suction gun there is no risk what so ever as no flame is used).
1. Always prepare your area first.

2. Choose your materials (size of cups, etc.) for each patient and each patient’s condition.

Cupping-Therapy lighting up3. Ensure the cups have no chips or cracks and are clean.

4. Using locking forceps, remove a cotton bud from a sealable container, squeeze off excess fluid, and seal container.

5. Light cotton away from the patient and container and warm the cups. Check the temperature of the cup edge on your own arm before applying.

6. Wait for correct size of flame to ensure appropriate vacuum strength.
The therapist can then decide how to use the cups depending on the client and the presenting condition. For example, if it is a child with asthma, we would use flash cupping techniques (which they usually find very enjoyable); the cups are applied and pulled off in quick succession creating a popping sound not unlike popcorn. For more chronic cases, say a frozen shoulder or joint pain, we would use a longer application with a stronger pull.

A sound knowledge of the theories of Traditional Chinese Medicine is not needed to be proficient at cupping as you can apply the cups to general areas but, due to its nature, everybody needs some basic training in its application and its contra-indications.

However, if it is to be used in the treatment of conditions and diseases, certain fundamentals are necessary, like tongue and pulse diagnosis, an understanding of the causing factors, and acu-point indications and locations.

Cupping affects all the above by means of the pull of low pressure, causing an increase in blood circulation, a rise in skin temperature, the promotion of metabolism within the skin tissue, better functioning of sweat and sebaceous glands, and removing stagnant, old blood.
The effects have a remarkable effect on stiff and aching muscles, activating secretion of synovial fluids which releases joint stiffness. Cupping also increases peristaltic movements and the secretion of digestive fluids. Which in turn help in cases of indigestion and constipation.

Come and get cupped to feel the power!
Mihael Mamychshvili RST

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