Cupping Techniques

cupping.jpg

Cupping therapy is an ancient form of alternative medicine in which a therapist puts special cups on your skin for a few minutes to create suction. People get it for many purposes, including to help with pain, inflammation, blood flow, relaxation and well-being, and as a type of deep-tissue massage.

The cups may be made of:

  • Glass

  • Bamboo

  • Earthenware

  • Silicone

Cupping therapy might be trendy now, but it’s not new. It dates back to ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern cultures. One of the oldest medical textbooks in the world, the Ebers Papyrus, describes how the ancient Egyptians used cupping therapy in 1,550 B.C.

What Does the Research Show?

There haven’t been many scientific studies on cupping.

One report, published in 2015 in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, notes that it could help with acne, herpes zoster, and pain management.

That’s similar to the findings from a 2012 report, published in PLoS One. Australian and Chinese researchers reviewed 135 studies on cupping. They concluded that cupping therapy may be effective when people also get other treatments, like acupuncture or medications, for various diseases and conditions, such as:

But those researchers noted many of the studies they reviewed could have been biased and that better studies are needed.

The British Cupping Society says that cupping therapy is used to treat:

There isn’t research to back all of that up.

Side Effects

Cupping is fairly safe, as long as you go to a trained health professional. But you could have these side effects in the area where the cups touch your skin:

  • Mild discomfort

  • Burns

  • Bruises

  • Skin infection

If the cups and equipment become contaminated with blood and are not sterilized correctly between patients, bloodborne diseases such as hepatitis B and C can be spread.

 

What to Ask Your Doctor First

Talk with your doctor 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. Ask:

  • What conditions do they use cupping for?

  • What is your training?

  • What is your experience in using it?

  • Am I already getting the standard treatments for my condition?

  • Are there reasons I should not get cupping?