Cupping Therapy: An Alternative Medicine You Should Try

It was only about 11 years ago when cupping first appeared in the tabloids. Actress Gwyneth Paltrow showed up on the red carpet with obvious round cupping marks on her back. These days, she is not alone among Hollywood stars who are devoted to this ancient healing technique. Other stars who are outspoken proponents of cupping are Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Simpson, Lady Gaga and Victoria Beckham. They have spoken about using cupping for various physical complaints as well as for relaxation. This therapy is also popular among athletes and Olympians.

Cupping therapy might be trendy now, but it’s not new. It is an alternative therapeutic method that has been popular in China since around 1000 B.C. Some records show that variations of cupping practices might actually be much older -- possibly dating as far back as 3000 B.C.

Cupping involves placing glass, bamboo or plastic jars on the skin and creating a vacuum by suctioning out the air. Your therapist will put a flammable substance such as alcohol, herbs, or paper in a cup and set it on fire. As the fire goes out, he puts the cup upside down on your skin. The underlying tissue is raised, or sucked, partway into the cup. The cup is generally left in place for up to 3 minutes. A more modern version of cupping uses a rubber pump instead of fire to create the vacuum inside the cup. Sometimes therapists use silicone cups, which they can move from place to place on your skin for a massage-like effect.

The purpose of cupping is to enhance circulation, help relieve pain, remove "heat" and pull out the toxins that linger in your body's tissues.

Cupping causes the skin to temporarily turn red, blue or purple, especially if there is an injury or energetic blockage under the area that was cupped. The skin discoloration can last anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks, but is rarely painful.

Generally, cupping is combined with acupuncture in one treatment, but it can also be used alone. The suction and negative pressure provided by cupping can loosen muscles, encourage blood flow, and sedate the nervous system, makes it an excellent treatment for high blood pressure.

One secret of cupping's perennial popularity is its great ability to promote a state of deep pleasure and profound relaxation.

Traditionally, naturopaths have long recognized the association between pain and conditions of congestion, stagnation and blockage. Not only pain, but the vast majority of all illness and disease comes from stagnation, congestion and blockage of vital energy (Qi), vital fluids, blood, phlegm and lymph. The suction applied by cupping sucks out and breaks up that congestion, stagnation, or blockage, restoring a free flow to the vital energies and humors of the organism. Where there's stagnation, there will be pain. Remove the stagnation, and you remove the pain.

It’s said that cupping might:

  • Help reduce pain
  • Promote relaxation
  • Boost skin health
  • Help treat respiratory issues and colds
  • Improve digestion

The British Cupping Society -- which promotes cupping and helps patients find qualified cupping practitioners -- states that cupping therapy can treat a variety of conditions safely, including:
  • Respiratory infections
  • Blood disorders, such as anemia and hemophilia
  • Joint pain caused by arthritis and fibromyalgia
  • Migraine and tension headaches
  • Muscle aches and stiffness
  • Fertility and gynecological disorders
  • Skin problems such as herpes, eczema and acne
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Mental disorders, anxiety and depression
  • Food allergies and asthma
  • Varicose veins and cellulite

Interested in giving it a try? Well, talk with your doctor first before you start cupping or any other type of alternative or complementary medicine. And talk extensively with your cupping therapist, too, before you try it.


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