Cupping is an ancient methodology in the practice of traditional Chinese medicine.
The use of cupping could be traced back to the fourth century when the renowned herbalist Ge Hong made a record of a form of cupping in a handbook of prescriptions.
Afterward, some literature gave a vivid description of a cupping process during the Tang and Qing dynasties.
Particular literature dedicated an entire chapter to “Fire Jar Qi”; a type of cupping that alleviates headaches, dizziness, and abdominal pain.
The ancient practice involves the placing of hollowed animal horns or cups over particular points or meridians.
However, in the modern practice of cupping; acupuncturists make use of thick glass and plastic cups; bamboo, pottery and plastic cups are still used in divers’ places all over the world.
The preferred method of delivery is glass cups as they are more resilient and durable compared to bamboo and pottery.
It also allows the acupuncturist to see the skin and make an appraisal of the effect of treatment.
It is found that cupping therapy may help with the following conditions, among others:
cough and dyspnea
lumbar disc herniation
However, the authors acknowledge that most of the 135 studies they reviewed contain a high level of bias. More studies are needed to assess the true effectiveness of cupping.
How does cupping work? What is it applied to treat?
The process involves the warming of glass cups with the use of a flammable substance like a cotton bud.
The cotton is soaked in alcohol, ignited and placed inside the cup.
Burning of the substance inside the cup exhaust the oxygen and creates a void space.
As the substance continues to burn, the cup is turned upside down and placed in a specific area on the body of the patient.
The vacuum created by the lack of air anchors the cup to the skin, pulling the skin upwards on the inside.
Pulling up the skin opens up the skin pores and increases the flow of blood.
This process is believed to balance and realign the flow of Qi, clears all hindrances and paves way for toxins to flow out of the body.
This process is usually applied by Chinese acupuncturists in the treatment of respiratory conditions such as bronchitis, congestion, arthritis, gastrointestinal disorders, and pains.
The process has also been found effective in the treatment of depression and swelling.
The part of the body with ample fleshy space such as back, stomach, arms, and legs is usually applied in treatment.
What are the types of cupping?
Besides the process described above, other methods include dry cupping, wet cupping, and air cupping.
In air cupping, a suction cup is attached to the base of the cup which is used in creating the vacuum.
In wet cupping, the skin is punctured before the cupping process during which some amount of blood flows inside the cup.
This is believed to remove toxins from the body.
Cupping is a long-practiced treatment that may help ease the symptoms of both temporary and chronic health conditions.
As with many alternative therapies, keep in mind that there haven’t been extensive studies performed without bias to fully assess its true effectiveness.
If you choose to try cupping, consider using it as a complement to your current doctor visits, not a substitute.
Here are some things to consider before beginning cupping therapy:
-What conditions does the cupping practitioner specialize in treating?
-What method of cupping does the practitioner use?
-Is the facility clean? Does the practitioner implement safety measurements?
-Does the practitioner have any certifications?
-Do you have a condition that may benefit from cupping?
-Before beginning any alternative therapy, remember to let your doctor know that you’re planning to incorporate it into your treatment plan.
Cupping is a relatively safe process; air cupping that does not include the risk of burning is considered the safest of all.
The drawing up of the skin may cause minor swell or bruise on the skin.
As the skin is drawn under the cup, it leads to the expansion of blood vessels.
This will result in small circular, painless marks where the cups were applied.
The marks usually vanish in a couple of days after treatment.
However, there are some complicated cases whereby it is not advisable to apply the cupping treatment e.g. fever, convulsion, and people prone to bleeding.
Cupping should not be applied to the stomach and lower back of pregnant women.
Also during movement of the cups, body areas such as ridges, spines and shoulder blades should be avoided.
There aren’t many side effects associated with cupping. The side effects you may experience will typically occur during your treatment or immediately after.
You may feel lightheaded or dizzy during your treatment. You may also experience sweating or nausea.
After treatment, the skin around the rim of the cup may become irritated and marked in a circular pattern. You may also have pain at incision sites or feel lightheaded or dizzy shortly after your session.
Infection is always a risk after undergoing cupping therapy. The risk is small and usually avoided if your practitioner follows the right methods for cleaning your skin and controlling infection before and after your session.
Other risks include:
scarring of the skin
Your practitioner should wear an apron, disposable gloves, and goggles or other eye protection. They should also use clean equipment and have regular vaccines to ensure protection against certain diseases, like hepatitis.
Always research practitioners thoroughly to protect your own safety.
If you experience any of these issues, consult your practitioner. They may offer remedies or steps you can take before your session in order to avoid any discomfort.