Cupping is the practise of applying glass cups to the skin via a suction process. A flame is used to suck oxygen out of the cup, creating a partial vacuum which causes suction when placed against the skin.

Cupping may be performed in a number of ways:

  • Stationary cupping: involves affixing the cups and leaving them in place for anywhere from 5-15 minutes.
  • Sliding cupping: involves the application of oil and sliding the cups over a larger area of the skin.
  • Flash cupping: involves placing a cup on the body before quickly withdrawing it (typically repeating this process many times).

While cupping is commonly associated with Chinese medicine, cupping actually has a long history of use all over the world; with well established traditions in Egypt, much of Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, and Iran (where a popular form of cupping known as Hijama is widely practised). Those of European descent may have memories of parents or grandparents using cupping on the upper back in cases of respiratory ailments (drawing out pathogenic wind). In earlier times, animal horns and bamboo cups were used in place of the modern glass cups.

CuppinG USES

Cupping has traditionally been used in Chinese medicine to draw out pathogenic influences such as wind, cold, heat, damp, and stagnant blood. Removing these influences frees up congestion and encourages the free flow of qi and blood in the body.

Cupping typically creates red circular marks at the site of the suction; which generally fade over a period of 2-7 days. The greater the stagnation in a certain area the darker the cupping marks will typically be. As circulation improves, cupping marks generally become less pronounced and recover more quickly after treatment. The marks themselves also convey important information to a Chinese medicine practitioner; for example, dark purple marks indicate deep-seated blood stasis, red dotted marks indicate heat toxicity, and pale blue marks indicate interior cold.