Perhaps you’ve been making your way around town, and you noticed someone with big circular reddish or purple marks on their skin. Those marks are the after-effects of a cupping therapy session, most likely performed by that person’s Chinese medicine practitioner (though there are versions of cupping practiced all over the world, everywhere from Africa to Japan).
In Chinese medicine, we mainly employ it in what we call “excess” conditions (as opposed to deficiency). We think of it as draining an excess from a particular area of the body to restore proper flow of Qi and blood. We use it for anything from upper respiratory tract infections to almost any kind of pain or injury.
So, what is cupping? During a session, glass or plastic cups are placed directly on the skin at specific areas of the body. Tissue is then pulled up inside the cup using a vacuum created by a suction device or using the traditional “fire-cupping” method (for safety and efficiency reasons, we don’t do fire-cupping at our office). After the cups are removed, dark red or even purple marks will remain in the areas with the most congestion. These marks are not the same as bruises, and will fade after a few days. The beneficial effects of cupping are noticeable right away, and many people notice immediate improvement of their symptoms.
A lot of people ask us about cupping therapy, these days. Some of our patients even come to us and specifically request this technique for their treatments. That’s both good and bad, since cupping really is a great tool but not always appropriate for certain conditions.
If you’re curious about cupping therapy, we recommend that you are examined by a licensed practitioner of Chinese medicine to find out if it’s appropriate for you.