Cupping is on of the oldest methods of Chinese medicine and is still often used alongside acupuncture. Cupping was widely used in the ancient world, in cultures such as the Egyptians and Greeks. It was used in England by doctors until the modern era, and is still used in some parts of Europe and Asia as a home remedy.
Traditionally cupping was applied by warming glass cups by holding smouldering cotton wool inside them. This removes the oxygen so that when the cup is applied to the skin the ensuing vacuum pulls the skin and underlying tissue gently into the cup. Cups are applied for around one to ten minutes. The Chinese believe that drawing up the skin will open the pores, stimulate the flow of blood, balance and stimulate the flow of Qi, and break up obstruction.
Nowadays the vacuum may be applied by using special cups with valves from which the air is removed with a manual pump. This allows greater control of the degree of suction and is the method I usually use.
I often use a technique called ‘moving cupping’, whereby suction is applied via glass cups topped by a rubber ball which is squeezed to remove the air. A special massage oil is applied to the skin (mostly on the back) and the cup is applied and then gently drawn down the back. It is like having a massage but instead of pushing in we are drawing out.
Cupping is a very safe condition but it can leave a certain degree of bruising. This is discussed before treatment. It isn’t painful and quickly goes, but full informed consent is always obtained prior to the procedure.
Cupping can be a highly enjoyable and effective procedure, and it is a favourite treatment of many of my patients.