With all the pictures of Olympic champions with cupping marks on their bodies, we are getting a lot of questions about what exactly is cupping. That’s a pretty reasonable question considering how strange it can look!
Cupping is an ancient practice. The first recorded use of cupping therapy actually dates back to ancient Greece. While the practice was most likely not limited to just Greece, it wasn’t until some time later that Chinese medicine practitioners wrote about it. Cupping used to be performed with either ceramic or bamboo cups, now plastic or glass cups are the standard.
Cupping therapy is used all over the world, however Chinese medicine (TCM) has set the standard for training and safety, as well as the ability to not only determine which patient benefits the most from cupping, but how to track changes based on the appearance of the color of the cupping marks. Cupping therapy results in red to purple bruises that disappear over the course of a few days. The “bruises” themselves are at the surface level and not painful. What is actually happening is that the vacuum that the cups create on the surface of the body results in local capillary dilation and thinning of blood in the area. This increases the ability for blood and lymph fluid to flow smoothly through the area, resulting in a relaxation of tissues.
Cupping is a safe, natural way to relieve not just pain, but also loosen congestion in the lungs and help with mild respiratory illnesses such as colds. By using cupping in our clinics, we are continuing an ancient legacy of safe, natural medicine with the appropriate high-level training that any acupuncturist trained by an accredited school has. It is very important to only visit highly trained practitioners of Chinese medicine for your cupping needs, as the nuances regarding intensity of cupping, time of retention, whether to use static cupping, slide cupping, or the ability to see that cupping is inappropriate take time and training to master. While cupping has a folk medicine history and origin, safety and dosage are factors that we consider in our modern professional clinic settings, and this should not be overlooked when searching for the right practitioner.
-Paula Kearney LA.c & David Bonilla LA.c