Cupping can be dated back to the 4th century, and is considered to be one of the oldest modalities of TCM. Materials used can vary with practitioners: animal horns, bamboo, glass, pottery and plastic have all been used. I choose to use glass, blown from a local artist, right here on the Big Island.
How does it work?
Traditionally, fire is used to create suction within the device just prior to placement upon the skin. There are more modern devices available that utilize a suction pump that attaches to plastic cups, but again, I prefer a more time-honored approach.
Cupping is used to open the pores of the skin, helping to stimulate blood flow, balance and realign the flow of Qi, break up obstructions, and create a way for toxins to be drawn out of the body.
Techniques also vary. Stationary Cupping is often used by placing the warmed cup(s) over a particular Acupuncture point. This creates a ring effect around the point, and is perhaps the most common visualization people have when thinking of this modality. Running Cupping is done when the practitioner wishes to stimulate a larger area, like the muscle groups of the back or shoulders. An herbal paste is rubbed on the area to be treated and the warmed cup(s) are moved across the area. This can create “sha” or a reddening or purpling of the skin, depending on how much stagnation is released from the body.
What does Cupping treat?
- Respiratory conditions
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Some types of muscle pain, like back pain
Are there cautions to be considered with Cupping?
Cupping should not be used on inflamed or broken skin, high fever or convulsions or patients who bleed easily. It can cause swelling and/or sha or bruising of the skin being treated. Unlike a bruise received from trauma, these markings dissipate quickly. In 2 to 3 days your skin will return to normal, but the wonderful effects of Cupping will remain.
Cupping is considered relatively safe, in the hands of a skilled practitioner.