Cupping is Ancient & Effective Therapy

Cupping is an ancient technique used by many cultures to promote a rapid healing response. The exact origin is unknown, but records show its use dating back to ancient Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia as a form of home medicine with mothers and grandmothers often applying this method for their loved ones.

In Chinese medicine, we use cups over specific areas – for example the Lung and Kidney points on the back to both tonify and detoxify those areas of the body, or they can be used as ‘sliding cups’ over the back and intercostals to open up the spaces, making breathing more comfortable and the patient more at ease when there is respiratory distress.

Cupping can also be used to release stagnancy from muscular tissues in cases of injury from overuse, accidents, or post surgery.  And for those (all you runners and dancers out there) with tight iliotibial bands (ITBs) this procedure can be an absolute godsend.


How is Cupping Done?

My clinical preference is to use glass cups that are gently heated to create a vacuum on the skin – I find glass cups to be the least reactive, most reliable, and most easily sterilized.  Once the cups are comfortably applied to the areas the patient needs treated, the patient will rest for approximately 10 minutes. Once the desired effect is achieved the vacuum is broken and the cups are gently removed for cleaning.

After the end of the cupping treatment, there are often round marks left on the back of various colors from light pink to deep purple depending on the degree of stagnancy in the tissues. As a teacher of mine used to say, “It may look like a hippo kissed your back.”  Family members or friends should not be alarmed when seeing these marks.  While the marks may look out of place, these marks indicate that the stagnancy or pathogen is being released from the body or no longer ‘stuck’ in the tissues.  In fact, when cups are applied to perfectly healthy tissue, no marks will surface.  The cup marks should also be kept warm, covered and dry so as not to introduce any potential pathogens before the tissues are healed – generally 2-4 days.

In my practice I also like to combine cupping with the therapeutic use of essential oils based on a person’s specific constitution, imbalance and disease pattern. And don’t worry; some folks may experience a bit of tenderness that quickly fades, but most patients love the way cupping feels and the quick results that are achieved.


Clinically Experienced Medicine

While cupping has been around for millennia and mainly been a home treatment amongst families – there is strong experiential evidence to its immediate efficacy. In my clinical practice alone – I see ease in breathing with respiratory cases; increased range of motion in musculoskeletal disorders, improved digestion and immune function when applied appropriately for regulating these systems.

Be sure to talk with your acupuncturist to see whether cupping is the right treatment for you. Always seek out a licensed and board certified professional to ensure efficacy and your safety.

Catherine Craig L.Ac.

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