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 cupping therapy in what we call “excess” conditions (as opposed to deficiency). We think of cupping therapy as draining an excess from a particular area of the body to restore the proper flow of Qi and blood. We use body and muscle cupping for anything from upper respiratory tract infections to almost any kind of pain or injury. Cupping therapy benefits include improvement in musculoskeletal pain, respiratory issues, digestive problems, skin disorders and more!
Chinese suction cup therapy is a technique that has been used for thousands of years but has recently gained attention in the media due to its use by professional athletes for pain and for injury relief. Chinese suction cups come in various shapes and sizes and can be made of different materials such as silicone, bamboo, glass, and plastic. At Advanced Holistic Center, we use glass cups with suction as a method of vacuum cupping therapy. The glass cups are placed on the skin and a small pump is attached. Cupping therapy is then performed by creating a vacuum on the skin to disperse stagnant blood and toxins. The 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).
In cupping therapy, congested blood is drawn to the surface, while fresh blood and lymph are stimulated in the affected area. As a result, there is a decrease in pain, stiffness, and tension. Cupping may cause the skin to temporarily turn red, blue or purple. This is generally a good sign as it indicates that there was an energetic block in the area. 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. Red marks indicate heat, while more purple marks indicate stagnation of blood. These marks are not painful and should only last a few days to a week. There are many different methods of cupping, but the two most popular are, fixed cupping and sliding cupping. In fixed cupping, cups are placed on a specific area and are left on the skin until they are taken off. Sliding cupping involves adding massage oil or a liniment and moving the cups along a certain area. Cupping is often done on the back, but is great for other fleshier areas of the body as well. 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 treatment, 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 a licensed Chinese medicine practitioner evaluate you to find out if it’s appropriate for your condition.
Facial cupping is used as part of a holistic facial rejuvenation treatment. Facial cupping uses the same principles as body cupping, however, the techniques are different. The cups used for facial cupping are smaller than the cups used for body cupping. The intention of facial cupping is to gently stimulate the area, without leaving marks. The facial cups are applied to the face and are used to gently pull the skin up. The stimulation helps increases blood flow, lymphatic drainage and helps to give the skin a rejuvenating glow. With regular treatment, facial cupping can help to improve facial complexion and help to improve fine lines.
In a facial cupping treatment, the suction of the cup will pull the skin into the cup. This helps to stimulate the blood in the surrounding area, saturating the dermis with fresh circulation. For this reason, facial cupping can help: promote rich blood circulation, strengthen skin, stimulate collagen, relax muscle or jaw tension. Immediately following a facial cupping treatment, you may notice a brightening of the skin and decreased puffiness. After several treatments, you may begin to notice fine lines and wrinkles begin to fade.
In contrast with body cupping, the goal is to not leave bruising, however, sometimes there can be marks left behind. It is for this reason that we do not advise getting facial acupuncture or facial cupping directly prior to a big event.
At Advanced Holistic Center, we also offer facial rejuvenation treatments. During these sessions, facial cupping is combined with facial acupuncture. Facial acupuncture helps to address any systemic underlying deficiencies, while also targeting the skin of the face, improving circulation and giving the skin a revitalizing glow.
Cupping can be effectively used to treat a wide variety of conditions. It is primarily used for musculoskeletal conditions, helping to ease injury and general muscle aches and pains. In addition to treating pain-related issues, cupping can also treat many other conditions including colds, cough, digestive conditions, skin conditions and more. When a Chinese medicine practitioner performs cupping, channel theory will often be applied. This means that the cups will be used along the meridians of the body and will target certain acupuncture points.
In 2012, the journal PLoS One published a review supporting the positive effects of cupping. The study reported that cupping therapy may be helpful in treating: herpes zoster, facial paralysis, cough and dyspnea, acne, and back pain due to lumbar disc herniation and cervical spondylitis. The journal reported, however, that most of the reviewed studies contained a high level of bias. More research is being done on cupping, and more studies are needed to determine the efficacy of cupping.
If you now near the New York City or Miami area, come in and try our cupping therapy. Our traditional Chinese medicine cupping massage (TCM cupping) has been featured in various news outlets.