Acupuncture Body > Acupuncture > Cupping Therapy's Comeback
Cupping Therapy's Comeback
Cupping Therapy's Comeback

Ancient technique for health today

Michelle Gellis

At a 2004 New York film premiere, the red circular discolorations on Gwyneth Paltrow's back caused such a stir that she was featured on the cover of the New York Post. The marks, it turned out, were the result of an ancient Chinese healing practice called cupping, which is used to release toxins and stimulate the flow of energy throughout the body.

Even if you haven't personally achieved movie star status, you and Paltrow can have something in common: you can experience incredible benefits with this affordable, accessible, and soothing therapy.

What is Cupping?

A cupping therapy practitioner uses vacuum suction to apply warm glass cups to the skin, usually on the back. On a physical level, cupping stimulates micro blood circulation and lymphatic activity, thereby bringing blood flow to oxygen-starved tissues, cleansing the body of harmful toxins, and stimulating the body's immune system. On an energetic level, cupping enhances the flow of Qi (pronounced "chee"), the life-sustaining energy that exists in all living beings, throughout the body. Think about the flow of the energy in your body like plumbing; cupping can act as a plunger, using suction to pull out stagnant Qi. Improving and balancing the body's Qi allows us to sustain good health, vitality, and energy.

Cupping is frequently used to relieve sore muscles, especially neck and back pain, and to clear chest congestion. It is primarily recommended for treating pain, gastrointestinal disorders, lung diseases (especially chronic cough and asthma), and paralysis, though it can be used to address other disorders such as sciatica and menstrual cramps.

To place the cups on the body, the practitioner turns each cup upside-down and uses heat to create a vacuum within it. They use a hemostat to hold a burning cotton ball in the cup, and when the oxygen in the cup is exhausted, the flame is removed. The glass cup is placed directly onto the skin, where it is held in place by suction. Some practitioners create the vacuum without fire, using a pump or a bulb at the end of the cup instead. Other practitioners prefer the fire cups and believe the added warmth from the flame is beneficial.

Practitioners will typically rub a small amount of oil on the skin to enable the cups to slide with ease, and they move the cups while the suction of skin is active. They will usually leave cups on the skin for 10 to 15 minutes, although in some circumstances the cups are applied and quickly removed. If the cups are left in place, the suction will leave round, red marks on the back--just like Gwyneth Paltrow's--which disappear within a few days. There is no pain involved, and patients report that the procedure is very relaxing.

Facial Cupping

Cupping can be combined with many other therapies or performed for a specific, targeted use. Facial cupping is one such technique and is used to enhance the appearance of the skin. It can be transformative to appearance as a standalone treatment or as an addition to acupuncture facial rejuvenation. The therapy increases local circulation to the skin, which draws nutrients to the surface and enhances absorption of lotions or serums. Facial cupping also increases blood flow, drains stagnant fluids, and eases puffiness.


Continue to page 2 of 2 >

Information on this website is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your physician or healthcare professional.
This information is not for diagnosing or treating health problems or diseases, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.