The History Of Cupping

Chinese medical theory says that pain results from the congestion, stagnation, and blockage of Qi/or vital energy, vital fluids, and/or blood. Cupping has been used effectively for centuries to heal and relax the body.

One of the earliest documentations of cupping can be found in the work titled A Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies, back to 300 AD. An even earlier Chinese documentation, three thousand years old, recommended cupping for the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis. In both Eastern and Western cultures, cupping evolved from shamanistic practices that held the belief that illnesses and infirmities can be sucked out of the body. This article details some of the many benefits of Chinese cupping for your body.

Cupping was established as an official therapeutic practice in the 1950s across hospitals in China after research conducted by Chinese and former Soviet Union acupuncturists confirmed cupping’s effectiveness. In recent years cupping has been growing in popularity, with celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston, David Arquette, Madonna and athlete Michael Phelps drawing attention to the benefits of cupping therapy.

What is Cupping?

Cupping is the term applied to a technique that uses small plastic, glass or bamboo cups as suction devices that are placed on the skin. The suction is used to disperse and break up stagnation and congestion by drawing congested blood (and energy/qi) to the surface. In dry cupping, the therapist will simply place the suction cups on the skin.

There are several ways that a practitioner can create the suction in the cups. One method involves fire to create the suction. In our clinic we use a manual pump device which prevents concerns around over-heating and safety issues. The pumping device also allows control of the tension created and pressure.

Once the suction has occurred, the cups may be stationary, or can be gently moved across the skin (often referred to as “gliding cupping).  For most patients, this is a very relaxing and releasing sensation. Once suctioned, the cups are generally left in place for about ten minutes while the patient relaxes.

After the cupping one might expect dark circles on the skin. This is normal and reflects the blocked blood that has been cleared and pulled to the surface. The skin should return to looking normal within 10 days.

Why Would I Choose Cupping?

Generally, cupping is combined with acupuncture, but it can also be used alone. Cupping at Sage Wellness is often used for pain and circulatory issues. It can be used to loosen muscles, benefit blood flow, and sedate the nervous system. Quite often it is directed to relieve back and neck pains, stiff muscles, anxiety, fatigue, migraines, rheumatism, and even cellulite. Especially useful for athletes is cupping’s potential to relieve muscle spasms and lower blood pressure.

More benefits of Chinese cuppings historically has been for lung conditions. It is used to clear mucus and congestion, or help a person’s asthma. In fact, respiratory conditions are one of the most common maladies that cupping has been used.

Cupping’s detoxifying effect on skin and circulatory system is also significant, with a visible improvement in skin color after three to five treatments. This also has a beneficial affect on the immune system. Cupping removes toxins and improves blood flow through the veins and arteries.

Cupping also affects the digestive system. A few benefits include an improved metabolism, relief from constipation, a healthy appetite, and stronger digestion. A 2015 report published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine noted cupping as an effective method of treating acne, pain, facial paralysis, cervical spondylosis, and herpes zoster.

Most people are very surprised how transformed and relaxed they feel after a short cupping session. Tension is released, breathe is deeper and circulation is flowing. It is often compared to the feeling after a dreamy deep tissue massage. If performed prior to the acupuncture session it also has the ability to clear blocked pathways so the acupuncture treatment is able to work more effectively as well.

  1. Dharmananda, Subhuti
  2. History of Chinese Cupping
  3. Joswick, Diane, Cupping: How Gwyneth Paltrow Got Her Spots, 
  4. The Many Benefits of Cupping Therapy


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