What is cupping and how does it work?
Cupping therapy uses cups to create suction on the skin to promote healing. When glass cups are used, a flame is briefly introduced into the cup to heat the air; the cup is quickly placed onto the skin and as the air cools, suction is created.
In sliding cupping, oil is first applied to the skin and the cup is glided across. The gliding action, in addition to the negative pressure supplied by the cup, aids both blood and lymph circulation to encourage nutrients into our tissues and move wastes out of the body’s systems. It also lifts connective tissues and relaxes areas of tension.
As tissues are lifted, blood vessels are expanded which increases blood flow to the area. Sometimes this expansion breaks weak blood vessels causing painless discolorations (appearing as bruises); this activates the body’s immune system to stimulate recovery of ailments. The lifting action also helps to draw inflammation up and away from the organs and tissues thereby making it an anti-inflammatory therapy.
In retained cupping, the cups are left in place for 5-15 minutes. The location of the cups is based on the condition being treated and may be specific to areas of tension or areas correlating to the theory of Chinese medicine.
Another cupping technique is flash cupping. The cup is applied and removed rapidly to an area to strengthen local or general weakness of tissues
Cupping therapy is also becoming an increasingly popular addition to the massage industry as many people find it to be very comfortable and relaxing as well as providing similar results with less strain to the practitioner.
What does cupping treat?
Cupping can help treat conditions ranging from sore muscles to chronic, internal illnesses. It is excellent simply as a relaxation session to treat stress and tension in the body. However, it can be used more therapeutically such as in the case of digestive complaints including constipation and diarrhea. We are currently offering treatments for the following:
- Stress relief
- Acute or lingering symptoms of a cold
- Muscle tension and pain
- General health maintenance
What can I expect from a cupping treatment?
This therapy is most commonly conducted on the “yang” aspect of the body; this includes the back, arms, and back of the legs although it can be done on the abdomen as well. Cupping is more effective on fleshy areas that have a minimal amount of hair. Oil will be applied to provide a smooth surface for the cup to glide across and to ensure lasting suction.
The cup will be abruptly placed onto the skin to ensure proper suction with the skin after the air inside has been heated; the air inside the cup will be hot in order to make a negative pressure but the cup itself will not be hot. Cupping should not be painful so proper communication between you and your practitioner is essential for your comfort and safety.
Since weak blood vessels can break with even light suction, it is possible to have skin discoloration over the areas being treated. These may visually appear as a bruise or a rash but are not painful and generally resolve within a week after treatment. This therapy is safe and non-invasive and side effects are not common aside from possible mild discomfort during treatment.
Nicole Holowack is currently a second year acupuncture student at Grant MacEwan University. Cupping is one of her favourite modalities because she finds it is both beneficial and enjoyable for the patient. She will be attending a 5-day cupping workshop at the end of May this year to earn her Advanced Certificate in Integrated Cupping and to expand her knowledge and practice of how cupping can treat varying disorders.
Cupping is a wonderful treatment on its own or as an addition to your current acupuncture or massage treatments. We encourage you to discover what cupping can do for you!