How to Relieve Pain with Cupping Therapy

Cupping uses small plastic or glass cups that are suctioned onto the skin. The cups might be moved along an area of pain or kept in one place. This therapy is used to eliminate toxins, improve circulation, and relax the muscles. It is used to release muscle tension, as well as to treat cough, asthma, digestive disorders, and allergies. The cups may leave slight red marks that will dissipate in within a few minutes, hours, or up to 5 days.

Cupping is one of the oldest “external” methods of TCM. The earliest recorded use of cupping dates to the early fourth century, and it is documented in A Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies, written in 340 AD. Cupping is a type of Chinese massage consisting of placing several glass or plastic “cups” on the body. Through manual suction using a rubber pump, a vacuum is created in the cup, which creates negative pressure. This lower pressure inside the cup allows the cup to stick to the skin. Fleshy sites on the body, such as the back and stomach, are the preferred sites for treatment.

A variety of conditions can be treated. Depending on the condition being treated, the cups will be left in place from 5 to 10 minutes. When combined with massage oil, the cups can be slid around the back while drawing up the skin. It has a massage-like effect on both the muscle tissue and the connective tissue. Drawing up the skin in this manner is believed to stimulate blood flow and oxygen. Even though it was used in ancient times, the practice of cupping is a very popular form of treatment now. You can even see celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow and athletes such as Michael Phelps flaunting their cupping marks. Phelps is a well-known advocate for cupping therapy. 

What Is Cupping Therapy?  

Cupping is a type of alternative therapy that involves placing cups on the skin to create suction. People mostly use cupping to relieve conditions that cause pain and as a treatment of tension. Cupping is used in combination with your acupuncture treatment. 

How Does Cupping Work?

It is believed that the suction created by the cup encourages blood flow—and this increased circulation may promote healing and reduce pain. From a traditional Chinese Medicine viewpoint, pain is simply blood and oxygen that is stagnant in an area. The tissues in the painful area don’t have enough oxygen and, in essence, scream out with pain chemicals to try and get the body to send more blood. Cupping therapy is just one of the tools your Chinese Medicine physician uses to improve the flow of blood in your blood vessels. It improves the blood capillary filtration rate so that highly oxygenated and nutritious blood can get to the oxygen-starved tissues faster and waste materials can be removed rapidly. 

“Many of my patients report immediate feeling of relief.” 

Dr. Corbin

What are the Benefits of Cupping Therapy?

Experts are still exploring how cupping eases pain and disease symptoms. The health benefits of this alternative treatment are felt quickly.  They are often used in the treatment of pains. The benefits of cupping therapy include: promoting the skin’s blood circulation, changing the skin’s biomechanical properties,  increasing pain thresholds,  improving local anaerobic(without oxygen) metabolism, stimulating inflammatory mediators, enhancing tissue repair, and boosting immune responses. The mechanical benefit of cupping stretches underlying tissue. It is often used as a treatment for Lung diseases. 

What are the Different Types of Cupping Treatments?

A variety of materials and cupping techniques are used. Types of cupping are:

Dry cupping: a pressure through suction-only method

Wet/bleeding cupping: may involve both suction and controlled medicinal bleeding. his is an alternative medicine technique used for shingles.

Running cupping: this involves moving suctioned cups around the body after applying oil to massage the desired area.

Flash cupping: involves quick, repeated suction and release of cups on an area of the body.

Cupping may also involve the use of acupuncture needles or moxibustion, which is the burning of mugwort leaves.

There is a wide variety of cupping methods, including facial cupping, sports cupping, wet cupping, fertility cupping, and orthopedic cupping.

Your practitioner, your medical needs, and your preferences will help determine which method is used as part of your treatment plan.

What Will I Feel During a Cupping Session?

You’ll feel a sucking sensation and pressure as the cups are suctioned. This will only last for about 5 to 10 minutes. There are very few adverse effects. You can expect to have round red or purple marks known as cupping bruises on your back for up to a week after the treatment. This will continue to allow the body to send fresh blood and oxygen to an area of your body that doesn’t have enough. This will speed up your pain relief. 

What Does Cupping Therapy Treat?

It is an effective method for relieving:

  • Many musculoskeletal pain conditions, especially patients with neck pain and shoulder pain
  • Shingles caused by Herpes Zoster – wet cupping is used
  • Coughing
  • Lung diseases and disorders 
  • Boost immune function, especially in respiratory conditions

Cupping is a proven technique that can help all of us. If you are ready to try this option, contact Healing Elephant to book an appointment with our board-certified physicians. Our training in both Western and Chinese medicine best positions us to assist you in improving your health.