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Cupping therapy benefits and side effects

Cupping is the placement of glass, plastic or bamboo cups on specific areas of the body using a vacuum. It is thought to originate from traditional Chinese medicine, however other civilisations in the world have used it in history.

Traditionally, a flame is used to create a vacuum inside the cup before it's applied to the body. Nowadays, a pump is used instead to draw the air out of the cup. There is no difference except for safety reasons as a pump is safer.

The cups typically made from glass, bamboo, plastic or silicone. Cups are placed on the skin and a vacuum created to suck the flesh into the cup. It is believed that placing these cups on specific areas of the body helps to move stagnant Qi (energy) and increase blood flow allowing the body to detoxify accumulations in the muscles and promote better general health.

After having the treatment, it can feel like you've had a deep tissue massage and is relaxing.

This ancient therapy isn't restricted to use in traditional Chinese medicine only. It has a long history of use in the UK and Europe and has been practiced for hundreds of years. Its use in modern medicine declined, but still remained popular in East Asia, where it was brought from and reintroduced into westernised countries over the last decade. Recently it's been made famous by the Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, which demonstrates the effectiveness of cupping.

Benefits of cupping therapy

Cupping works by removing blockages in the energy pathways that flow around our body. There a lot of potential health benefits, which includes the promotion of better blood vessel flow, increased circulation to the skin, freeing up the nervous system, tissue and muscles, loosened knots in the muscles, the supply of oxygen to cells and the release and drain of toxins or excess fluids in the body.

The different types of cupping therapy

Dry cupping

This type uses suction to create a vacuum. Traditionally a flame is placed inside a glass cup to create a lack of air and then the cups are placed on parts of the body. This causes the skin to pull up inside the cup, drawing any problems out of that area.

In modern times, a pump is used instead of a flame to pull the air out of the cup creating a vacuum and suction. The skin rises into the cup and will start to become red or purple. The cup is typically left in place for around twenty minutes.

Rolling cupping

Rolling cupping uses soft cups such as silicone over oiled skin. The cup is rolled over the body area to improve the quality of the skin appearance for example cellulite .

Wet cupping

During this treatment, the acupuncturist will use a sterilised lancet to pierce the patient's skin, causing the person to bleed. The cups are then placed over the bleeding area to draw a small amount of bad blood out of the body for therapeutic benefits. This type is often used to treat skin conditions such as psoriasis as it's good to remove toxins from the body.

This technique is very good for skin conditions such as psoriasis. Both the dry and wet cupping methods are used to assist any problems with the respiratory system like bronchitis and pneumonia, as well as illnesses like chest infections or the common cold.

Side effects

It isn't painful but will leave a small dark, bruise mark on the body for a few days that often look like a love-bit (hickey) from an octopus.

What happens during a session

During a cupping session you'll be asked where the muscle pain is. You'll then be asked to take your clothes off and lie down on a couch.

Once you're comfortable, the cups will be placed on the problem areas of the body and a vacuum will pull the flesh into the cup.

You'll be left with the cups on the skin for around 20-30 minutes. Afterwards the cups will be removed and you can put your clothes back on.