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What is Cupping?

Cupping involves placing cups on the skin to create suction and facilitate the flow of “qi” in the body. Qi is a Chinese word meaning life force.

The suction supports healing with blood flow. Cupping helps separate the myofascia from the muscle in order to release toxins and alleviate painful muscle adhesions. This modality helps to increase blood circulation, relax tight muscles and reduce pain.

Cupping increases blood circulation to the area where the cups are placed. This may relieve muscle tension, which can improve overall blood flow and promote cell repair. It may also help form new connective tissues and create new blood vessels in the tissue. People use cupping to complement their care for a host of issues and conditions.

How Cupping Works

There are various types of “cups”, such as cups made from bamboo, ceramic, metal, silicone and plastic. Modern cupping is performed using glass cups that are rounded like balls and open on one end.

There are two main categories of cupping performed today:

  • Dry cupping is a suction-only method. The inside of each cup is heated — typically with an alcohol-soaked cotton ball that is set aflame. The heat sends oxygen out of the cup, creating a vacuum. Some providers use a suction device to remove air from cups. Once placed on your skin, the vacuum force pulls skin up into the cup.
  • Wet cupping may involve both suction and controlled medicinal bleeding. A needle is used to lightly puncture your skin before, and sometimes after, cupping. Toxins leave the body through the puncture wounds during the cupping procedure.

Your practitioner, your medical condition, and your preferences will help determine what method is used.

Cupping Specialties

Facial Care




Pain Relief

Cupping Benefits

Cupping provides pain relief as well as muscular relaxation.

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Cupping enhances overall health by removing energy blockages identified by TCM practitioners as impediments to the flow of healthy energy or Qi. Cupping may help athletes increase blood flow to a specific muscle region or decrease pain.

Other benefits include:

  • Increasing blood circulation
  • Relieving muscle tension
  • Improving overall blood flow
  • Promoting cell repair
  • Encouraging tissues to release toxins

Conditions Treated

Cupping is employed mainly to relieve conditions that cause pain. Cupping may ease symptoms of:

Cupping Treatment Procedure

The typical duration of the cupping treatment varies from 15 to 25 minutes. Treatments can be done on a daily basis for acute problems and every other day for more chronic conditions.
Clients typically describe feelings of relief, muscular release, lightness, pleasant tingling, freedom from pain, and an increase in flexibility and muscular control following a cupping therapy. Contracted, tense and painful muscle tissue will soften rapidly with just a few minutes of cupping.

Cupping is a very low-risk therapy. Still, you may experience the following:

  • Fatigue.
  • Headaches.
  • Muscle tension or soreness.
  • Nausea.
The complete benefits of cupping therapy are typically achieved after 5 to 10 visits. When coping with emotional complaints or long-standing chronic problems, the benefits are sometimes instant but fleeting. One course of treatment is regarded to be ten sessions, but this may vary based on the condition being treated.

Cupping FAQ

Cupping leaves red, circular marks that can look like bruises (but are not usually painful). These are caused by the increased circulation that the cups draw into the layers of the skin, and they usually last for around one week, sometimes a bit longer.
It’s better to stay away from warm temperatures 2 hours before and 2 hours after the treatment as it can lead to skin damage and inflammation. You can return to all your other regular activities after the treatment.
For pregnant women, cupping on the lower abdomen, medial leg and lumbosacral region should be avoided.
There are a few conditions and situations where cupping is not appropriate. If you’re on high doses of blood thinners, or if you are thin, frail or have fragile skin, cupping is not appropriate. Similarly, if you have active cancer, skin trauma or a blood disorder, you should stay away from it until your circumstances change. In any case, always share your medication list and health history with your practitioner before a session.

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