Cupping Therapy

Cupping is the term applied to a technique that uses small, usually glass, cups as suction devices that are placed on the skin. The suction from a negative pressure that is created in the cup causes the skin and underlying muscle to be lightly drawn up into the cup. One way to think about cupping is that it is an inverse of a massage, rather that applying pressure to the muscles it instead uses gentle suction to pull it upward. The patient will usually feel a tight sensation in the area of the cup. For most patients, this sensation is relaxing and soothing. Depending on the patient’s comfort and the practitioner’s assessment of the problem, the cups may be moved around or left in place while the patient relaxes. Once suctioned, the cups are generally left in place for about ten minutes.

The suction and negative pressure provided by cupping can loosen muscles, encourage blood flow, and sedate the nervous system. Cupping can be used to relieve back and neck pain, stiff muscles, and anxiety among other things. The treatment can also be valuable for the lungs, helping to clear congestion from conditions such as the common cold.

The most obvious side effect of cupping is the appearance of spots on the skin where the cups have been placed. The circular bruises may look purple or red on the skin, but are rarely painful. Fortunately, these marks usually only take a couple days to a week to disappear.

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