A Brief History of Cupping, an Ancient and Effective Therapy

Many of us have had a massage in our lifetime, yet most of us have never had what many refer to as “Cupping”. Cupping has been used for thousands of years by ancient cultures to treat a plethora of ailments ranging from removing toxins (pus/blood) from boils/animal bites, to chronic cough, as well as helping with recovery from surgery. Today the focus is around Pain Relief, Stress Reduction, and Improving Athletic Performance, but this doesn’t mean it can’t help with other notable conditions such as Headaches/Migraines, Insomnia, TMJ, as well as the more glamorous Facial Rejuvenation.

Back in the day, animal horns and bamboo were used to make the cups. Today we have many other types of cups which are much easier to treat with and disinfect. Fire is still used today as it was over 5,000 years ago, but there are now also pump suction cups which are wonderful for certain conditions when fire cannot be used. During a treatment, glass, silicone, earthenware, or plastic cups are placed on the body using suction and negative pressure. The pulling sensation created by the suction helps to decrease muscle pain/tension, improve blood flow and circulation to tissue, decrease inflammation, and calm the nervous system.

There are a few types of Cupping methods which are called Sliding, Flash, and Stationary. Sliding cupping is exactly how it sounds- a cup slides rhythmically along muscles, loosening tissue and moving Qi inside the body. Flash cupping is when a cup is quickly placed on the skin and removed once it has suctioned ever so slightly, creating a popping noise (which can sound quite humorous). Lastly, Stationary cupping is when all cups are positioned where they need to be and then remain in place for about 10-15 minutes. Leaving the cups for this amount of time will draw blood and toxins to the surface of the skin creating circular hematomas or bruises which usually dissipate within 5-7days. We all have seen these marks on Michael Phelps during the Olympics and Gwyneth Paltrow on the red carpet, but don’t think that it is only for the rich and famous- anyone and everyone should try cupping therapy!

From a scientific perspective, the exact mechanism of action for how cupping works is not completely deciphered (much like acupuncture). Theories speculate that it focuses on the body’s nervous system response, hematological response, and immunological response to the physical stimuli. A number of physiological effects are documented from cupping, including an increase in the body’s own natural opioid production in the brain (resulting in pain reduction), a lowering of blood pressure, a reduction in inflammation, and an increase in immune function. Ancillary research is needed to further understand cupping, but this therapy exhibits considerable promise as a non-pharmaceutical pain reducer by minimizing physiological effects of stress and speeding up muscle recovery naturally.

Cupping treatments are now available at Selby Acupuncture along with many other Traditional Chinese Medicine modalities. Call us at 651-224-6678 or ask your provider about these at your next visit!

(written by Rachel)

(Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash)