Nourishing Life

Cultivating the Art of Change

Cupping Therapy

What is Cupping Therapy? 拔罐

Cupping therapy is the placing of suction cups on to the body in order to separate adhesions within the soft tissue and encourage blood and lymph flow.  This revitalising of the tissue can promote the healing of a broad range of medical ailments.

In our clinic we practice flame-cupping, which involves warming and then placing glass cups on to the skin.  By warming the air within the cup a vacuum is created and draws tissue up into the cup.  This suction loosens, stretches and separates the layers of fascia beneath the cup to create more space for blood and lymph to flow throughout the tissue and to stimulate the peripheral nervous system.  This initiates the removal of stagnant blood, cellular waste and toxins, whilst bringing oxygen and other nutrients to the area.  

Cupping Therapy has recently gained popularity within Western physical therapy practices, yet it is good to remember that it has been practiced by cultures across the world for thousands of years - being first recorded as a medical practice by the Early Greek, Egyptian, and Chinese peoples.  

As seen through the lens of Chinese Medicine, Bá Guàn - “pull vessel” - draws out pathogenic influences from the body such as Cold, Wind, Heat and Damp, and removes the stagnation and toxins that they cause.  It stimulates the flow of Qi, Blood and Body Fluids within an area and activates the Wei Qi to increase immunity.  Bá Guàn is also used for diagnosis - the marks left on the skin after cupping indicates what pathogens are being brought to the surface, their severity and their location within the body.

Cupping Therapy at our Clinic 

There are many cupping techniques and these are the ones that we currently practice:

  • Static cupping:  One to several cups are left in place for 5-20 minutes.  Gentle suction will tonify Qi and Blood, stimulate Wei Qi, expel pathogenic Wind and move mild stagnation.  Strong suction will draw out deep pathogenic toxins and debris and strongly mobilise Qi and Blood to resolve Blood Stasis.
  •  Slide cupping:  An area is lubricated with a medicinal oil or lotion, a cup is applied and then glided along or across the direction of the tissue fibres.  This can be good for releasing large areas of tension and mobilising the soft tissue by pulling apart scar tissue and adhesions.
  • Flash cupping:  Several cups are ‘juggled’ over an area - Each cup applied is only left for a short period of time (20-30 seconds) before being removed and reapplied to the same or new location.  This is a milder yet more invigorating method that boosts circulation and the Wei Qi field.  It is very helpful for expelling external Wind invasion and therefore for treating the early onset of cold and flu.  It also releases emotions stored superficially at the Wei level and so relieve emotional stress.

Cupping can leave temporary marks on the skin depending on the health of the tissue and on what may be present in the system.  These marks can range from white, red, purple, blue and even black.  In our medicine these marks are a meaningful indication of what pathogen(s) or toxins are being brought to the surface and where their location in the body might be.  Cupping marks will gradually fade within a few days or up to two weeks.  If after a week marks persist, herbal ointments can be applied to encourage healing.

Cupping induces an unusual drawing sensation in the body and can sometimes be painful depending on the amount of suction and adipose in the skin tissue.  It is a relatively draining therapy so it is not uncommon to feel fatigue, nausea or dizziness during or after treatment.  Increased body warmth and sweating is another possible reaction due to the increased circulation of Blood and Fluids.  Although less common, blistering can occur on very sensitive skin but this should disappear within a day or two.  Aside from these possible temporary discomforts;  a sense of release and revitalisation within the tissues usually follows a cupping treatment.