Cupping is a Traditional Chinese Medicine
(TCM) method of stimulating acupuncture points by applying a glass, plastic, or bamboo cup to the skin. The vacuum created when applying a cup (either by momentarily heating the inside or by suction) draws the skin and superficial muscle layer into
the cup. This technique stimulates blood flow, relaxes congested
muscles, treats general stiffness in the body, and relieves pain (particularly effective for neck/shoulder pain).
Frequently applied either before or following an acupuncture treatment, cupping is used for treatment
of sprains, soft tissue injuries, fluid retention in the lungs,
bronchitis, congestion, asthma, and chronic cough. By alleviating
swelling and pain, cupping addresses a variety of acute ailments by
removing stasis, or energy blockages.
Increased blood flow into
the cupping area allows the body region to heal more quickly and brings
toxins to the surface, which can be released through the pores. By causing tissues to release toxins, cupping clears energy blockages
and activates the lymphatic system. Several cups may be placed on the
body simultaneously and left in place for up to 15 minutes. In some cases, fixed position
cupping is combined with a technique called sliding cupping in which the
cups may be moved to other acupuncture point locations along different energy
channels or meridians during a treatment session.
We always prepare patients for what to expect after cupping... especially before formal events and during swimsuit season! Although cupping is not painful when it is being done, it can
feel like an intense tightness within the cupped area (tightness that is relieved when cups are removed). Also, because of the suction, cupping pulls blood to the surface of the skin and can leave bruises that vary in color from light pink/brown to bright red to dark purple.
The acupuncturist sees the bruising as a reflection of the degree of stasis, or blockage, that is in a particular area. For instance, a light pink bruise indicates much less significant blockage versus a dark purple bruise. In any case, patients are forewarned that this bruising can occur - and can last for up to a week.
Most patients do not mind the bruising because of the significant relief they feel following the procedure. Some even like to show off their cupping bruises as acupuncture treatment souvenirs - right Gwyneth?