Cupping Therapy

By Dr. Amy Nykoluk

Traditional Chinese Medicine is most often associated with acupuncture and the use of natural herbs as healing remedies. Cupping is a lesser-known treatment that can provide a tension releasing, pain reducing effect. It has been used for thousands of years, one of the earliest documentations of cupping dating all the way back to 300 AD.

Cupping is a general term used to describe a technique where suction is formed in a cup that is placed on the skin, and when the skin is drawn into the cup, tension is released from the muscles, toxins are released, blow flow is increased, circulation improved, nutrients flood the area,  and pain can be reduced due to sedation of the nervous system.  People seek cupping out to treat many things, including, but not limited to high blood pressure, fatigue, anxiety, depression, weak/tired/sore muscles, acne, lumbago, neck tension, and cellulite and fat loss.

Many people will experience a deep discolouration, much like bruising on the skin after a cupping session, which can be startling to someone who has never experienced it, or doesn't understand the reason behind it.

When injuries occur deep beneath the surface of the skin, bleeding often occurs causing a bruise, sometimes visible, sometimes not. There can also be swelling in the area, an accumulation of fluid and proteins. When this sticky fluid, and blood gather, it creates a blockage, disrupting circulation, which in turn leads to pain, and chronic conditions.

In order for oxygen, cells, and nutrients to reach all areas of the body, we need to ensure these blockages are released.  The suction created in the cup allows space in the area for the circulation to continue through, as well as draws up all this debris to the surface of the skin.  The colour and pattern of the marks vary person to person, and depend on the level of stagnation in the area, and range from a bright red to dark purple, sometimes black, usually lasting 3 days to a week - sometimes longer if the person is very sick or sedentary. If there is no stagnation present, there will be only a pink marking which disappears in a few minutes to a couple of hours.  For people receiving regular cupping sessions, the marks are minimal, if even present, as the toxins aren't given a chance to build up beneath the skins surface, although even if a person receives regular treatment, if they live in an environment surrounded by pollution, eating processed foods, or taking in other toxins on a regular basis, the skin will still show marks.

For many people, it is a daily occurrence to spot people with the very recognizable cupping marks, and in fact, it is seen in a positive light, as it shows the release of toxins from the body.  For the people who aren't familiar, it usually only takes one treatment, and to feel the results, to fully believe the marks are worth the results.  There are many different styles of cupping, different types of cups, and different techniques that are used depending on the needs of the person being treated.  Cupping is an effective and relaxing treatment that can really be added to anyone's personal health regime, and a great way to be introduced to Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Sources: Giovanni Macciocia - Foundations in Traditional Chinese Medicine