The Real Benefits Of Chinese Cupping Therapy
You may have heard of cupping during the last Olympics when members of the American swim team like Michael Phelps came to races with big red circles on their backs. If this therapy is used in the US Olympic team, it might also work for your muscle pain, tendon and joint stiffness, and even fibromyalgia too!
Fire cupping therapy is a part of Chinese medicine that is used in conjunction with acupuncture and involves applying pressure to an acupuncture point by creating a vacuum. Small glass jars or bamboo cups, about the size of a baby food container, are internally heated by fire and immediately applied to the acu-point. The rapidly cooling air within the jar creates a vacuum, and draws on the skin beneath, thus applying pressure to the acu-point. The suction pressure relieves stagnation in the affected channel and restores the flow of energy or qi, allowing the body to heal. Cupping therapy is a common traditional Chinese medicine treatment for respiratory tract infections such as bronchitis and pneumonia. Muscular problems in the neck, shoulders and back can also be treated with cupping therapy.
Cupping therapy is an adapted form of traditional Chinese medicine that involves applying glass cups to the skin to help alleviate pain, expel toxins, and restore proper circulation to the body. Each glass cup acts as a vacuum through the use of heat or a suction pump. The cups are positioned on a variety of specific trigger points (the same as those used in acupuncture) on the body, and are typically left on the body for ten to fifteen minutes.
How is a cupping session performed?
A cupping session is generally performed using the following tools: glass cups, cotton balls, rubbing alcohol, candles and matches. Each of these tools is applied during a session as follows:
- A cotton ball is soaked in alcohol and lit on fire by a burning candle.
- A vacuum is created inside a glass cup by holding the lit cotton ball inside the cup.
- Once the vacuum is created, the cotton ball is removed and the cup is immediately applied to the designated acupuncture point on the skin.
- Four to six cups are applied during a session and are not left on the skin for longer than fifteen minutes.
There are two main types of cupping therapy used:
1. Massage cupping – During treatment, the glass cups are moved in a massage pattern around the skin to help massage sore joints and muscles.
2. Stationary cupping – During treatment, glass cups are applied to the skin and not moved until the end of the session.
There are a few different ways of doing cupping including stationary, sliding and wet cupping. In stationary cupping the cups are placed on the patient and remain in one place. This is primarily used for muscle aches, chronic headaches and detoxification. Stationary cupping can leave circular marks where the cups are placed. It must be emphasized that these are not bruises and don’t feel like bruises. In sliding cupping, massage oil is applied to the patient and two fire-cups are placed on the patients back.
The cups are then slide around the back concentrating on areas of pain and tightness. Mostly used for back pain and myofascial release, sliding cupping leaves the back a little red with a couple of lighter red marks where the cups were originally placed. Sliding cupping is also effective in treating colds and can easily be combined with your acupuncture treatments. Wet cupping, or blood cupping, isn’t as common as the other forms and involves making tiny incisions on the skin with a lancet.
The cup is then placed over the incisions and blood is sucked out. This is basically a form of bloodletting. Depending on the type done, the amount of suction used and the how long they’re are on the back, the cupping marks can be visible for anywhere from three days to two weeks.
Although a cupping session may sound painful, it is nothing of the sort. In fact, usually the only thing a person feels is a slight suction where each cup is placed. After a session, you may have circular red marks on your skin from the cups. These red marks will fade and are a sign that the cupping therapy has successfully increased the blood flow within your body.
Benefits of cupping for fibromyalgia
How does cupping benefit fibromyalgia? After each session, patients usually report feeling deeply relaxed, and their specific target cupping areas feel light and agile. This is due to the fact that cupping works to improve circulation, helps release toxins form the body, and promotes quicker healing of muscles, tendons and ligaments.
Other benefits reported by fibromyalgia sufferers include:
- Relief from pain or stiffness in the muscles and tissues
- Reduction of painful trigger points
- Improves flexibility in muscles and overall range of motion
- Reduces feelings of depression and anxiety
- Relieves stress
Cupping is a safe treatment for fibromyalgia sufferers as it does not aggravate their condition.
Benefits attributed to the application of cupping include, stimulation of the blood vessels in an affected area, easing blood clots, clearing up bruised tissue and stimulating the body’s circulation system. Cupping therapy is generally applied for about 15 minutes and leaves unsightly marks on the body for a few days. There is also a very slight risk of receiving minor burns, depending on the method of heating that is used. To allay patients fears, some cupping practitioners are now using suction pumps instead of heated vessels.