Cupping Therapy: Trend or Tradition?
Suction therapy seemed to be reserved for athletes. Now everybody, literally, seems to be doing it. The recent Olympic games showcased numerous elite athletes from various disciplines with strange reddish markings all over. As if some Octopus glommed on and refused to let go, ultimately leaving behind a series of circular bruisings. Now there are pictures of A-listers and other celebrities rocking proof of their latest cupping session. So, what is all the rage about? Is it simply a passing trend? Or is there something of great value observable?
Quick History on Cupping Therapy
Cupping therapy is one of the modalities of Chinese Medicine, with that its origin goes back thousands of years. Still, it’s not tied only to Ancient Asian culture. Throughout Europe, in countries such as Italy and the Russian Federation, cupping has been used for generations to treat a multitude of ailments. Cupping is the application of a container in such a fashion as to create suction upon the body. The container is generally a glass or bamboo “cup.” Nowadays, there are plastic cups that utilize a hand operated vacuum to create a degree of suction.
Traditionally, the popular method was with the use of fire. In that, a highly trained practitioner uses a controlled flame to free all the air from within the container and quickly applies the cup to the body. Instantaneously, the skin inside the cup rises to equalize the pressure. After a period of time, which depends entirely on the treatment principle being affected, the skin will show a color change within the area of the cup. The degree of color change – pink, red, blue, brown – and skin alterations – smooth, bumpy, sandy – is a direct manifestation of the internal conditions of the patient. For instance, the more energy that is stagnant, the greater the degree of discoloration and superficial skin texture change. The medical theory and differential diagnosis dives vastly deeper. Still, for now just know that the greater the markings left, the greater the need for such a treatment.
Sha is the term ascribed to this phenomenon in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Sha, translates to shark skin, or sand skin. Meaning, the skin becomes temporarily roughened as the subcutaneous stagnant energy is circulated and liberated. The allopathic medical corollary would be petechiae. This holistic treatment principle is called Releasing the Exterior in TCM. Think of it this way, the body is your house, and imagine you are cooking on the stovetop. What do we do so the smell does not linger inside? We turn on the vent, open the windows, maybe even crack open the door. That is analogous to the mechanics of how cupping works. We simply open the windows (your skin pores) and turn on the fans to vent out a lingering energy (suction action of the cups). Going further, we have phrases such as, “the room feels tense,” or a space gets a “stuffy” feeling from an argument or uncomfortable situation. What do we do? Again, turn on a fan, open a window, or simply step outside. We crave fresh air, in fact, we thrive on fresh air. In that example, cupping is like bringing a breath of fresh air into your body by releasing the stale air that can linger.
Benefits of Cupping Therapy
- Moves Qi & Blood, Removes Stasis
Promotes circulation of blood flow and energy flow to move out toxins and stagnant substances, while simultaneously nourishing tissues and the interstices
Stops or Alleviates Pain
Frees muscular adhesions (trigger points), relaxes muscle tissues and tendons, which turns off or mutes efferent nervous impulses that characterize pain signals to the central nervous system
- Warms the Body and Dispels Cold
The application of heat is very soothing and comforting to the mind (nerves) and body. Cold can get lodged in the body, travel deeply and cause all sorts of pathologies. Cupping delivers heat therapy on a novel and effective manner.
- Diminishes Inflammation and Swelling
One protective measure the body embraces is flooding an injured or sick area with blood and other body substances. Acutely, this is helpful to stabilize a problematic region. Chronically, this inflammatory response is detrimental. Cupping is an anti-inflammatory treatment modality that liberates the flood of byproducts and increases the healing response.
- Treats Musculoskeletal Disorders
As an Asian bodywork therapy, cupping attends to the aches and pains from daily activity to elite athletic endeavors, and also the injury process that occurs from damaging tissue. Frozen Shoulder, Back Pain, Arthritis? Cupping helps that and more. Again, cupping promotes the healing response of the body while alleviating common pain symptoms.
Treats Internal Disorders
Cupping therapy is especially good for Digestive, Respiratory, and Gynecological pathologies. Further, when combined with Acupuncture Medical Theory cupping is a comprehensive treatment in and of itself.
By pulling up deep stagnations, cupping mechanically draws toxins to the surface where they are washed away by the influx of fresh blood. Beyond this, cupping can be used to purge poisons from venomous bites from animals and insects.
Is cupping for everyone? Do I need cupping therapy?
Yes and no. As it’s becoming more popular worldwide, folks desire their own set of cupping marks to show off to their friends. It’s understandable, as mentioned above, many celebrities and professional athletes wear them with pride. What it comes to is your condition and constitution. You may require this modality at some points, or rarely if at all. That said, cupping is very versatile and there are numerous methods of cupping. It may easily be employed as a means to relax and calm the body and mind, similar to a pampering massage. As well, it is a scientific approach to treat acute and chronic ailments alike.
At Lakewood Ranch Acupuncture and Wellness, your doctors are highly trained in this modality and more. Ask us if you think cupping is right for you in your day’s treatment session. As always, we utilize the appropriate treatment most effective for you. Each session is customized and unique to you. Call us today to schedule your next appointment!
- Bisio, Tom. A Tooth from the Tiger’s Mouth.
- Dharmananda, Subhuti. Institute for Traditional Medicine.
- Xinnong, Cheng. Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion.