Chinese cupping is a form of Oriental healing and traditional Chinese medicine that is believed to be around three thousand years old, and from the first accounts, it is known to heal pulmonary tuberculosis. In relatively more recent times, it is mentioned in the documentation, A Handbook of Prescriptions for Emergencies, written in 300 AD by Ge Hong, a Taoist herbalist. This form of healing cup therapy is non-invasive in nature and works on the Chinese surmise that ailments are caused when the “qi” or “chi” or the life force of the body is disrupted because of some ailment or injury. Cupping therapy works to restore this equilibrium and thus heal the patient and provide pain management.
Chinese Cupping Therapy takes its name from the cups that the practitioner uses to create vacuums over the affected points of the body. In a way, it is an extension of the acupressure form of treatment because it also focuses treatment on specific points on the body. For more background on the rich history of cupping or Chinese Medicine as a whole be sure to check out one of our best articles, An Overview of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
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How is the suction created?
Small cups made of glass, bamboo cups, iron or pottery cups are used to create a vacuum or suction. Materials like alcohol are either rubbed on the bottom of the cup or a cotton swab soaked in alcohol is placed in the cup. Herbs and paper can also be used. These materials are then ignited, and as the fire goes out, the cup is carefully placed upside down on specific areas of the body. The cooling air inside the cup creates a vacuum and provides an adequate amount of suction that causes blood vessels directly below the skin to dilate. The therapy cup is typically left in place for 5 to 10 minutes at a time, and the therapist may choose to use several cups at different points in several different meridians at the same time. Patients receiving cupping therapy can rest assured that there is rarely any burning of the skin.
In prior years, the therapy cups were typically made from hollowed-out animal horns, rather than the materials we use today in modern times. The hollowed-out horns were placed on different meridians of the body and the methods used previously are the same methods we use today when practicing traditional Chinese Cupping Therapy.
How does the treatment work?
Chinese Cupping Therapy treatments are believed to act as the reverse of massage treatments. That is because placing the therapy cups against the skin applies pressure and creates suction on the skin. Cupping uses vacuum pressure to pull the skin upwards using a variety of different cupping sets. Once the vacuum is created, the therapy cup can also be moved across the skin in a procedure called sliding cupping.
However, care must be taken that the sliding therapy cup does not move over bony areas of the body such as the shoulder blades or the ridges of the spine. Ancient Chinese Cupping therapy works by loosening muscles and stimulating blood flow to a particular region to increase blood circulation. Thus, it can help relieve the stiffness of muscles. Since it works to calm the nervous system, cup therapy is also used to treat a host of mental ailments. It relaxes patients and induces a sense of mental and physical peace.
What are the ailments cupping can help?
Cupping therapy can be used to lower high blood pressure, treat rheumatism, and back and neck pain. Mental conditions such as migraines, anxiety, depression and fatigue also respond very well to the cup therapy treatment. Cup therapy has shown to have cosmetic benefits also and can help remove cellulite and promote weight loss. Though, cosmetic treatment may also involve the application of oil before vacuum. Patients having respiratory problems such as allergies, asthma and the common cold have found that the therapy helps clear congestion and passages in the lungs. Varicose veins, gastrointestinal disorders, gynecological problems and blood disorders like anemia and hemophilia are other disorders that can be corrected using cupping therapy. Be sure to view our full list of benefits cupping has been known to provide.
Chinese Cupping Therapy can be considered an advanced physical therapy option because Chinese Cupping Therapy helps remove toxins from the body while relieving tense and tight muscles and joint pain. It is a non-invasive physical therapy option that has been seen to yield positive results concerning pain management and relaxation.
The negative pressure that is experienced during the cupping method helps to soften muscles and lift connective tissue. It aids in increasing the blood flow to the treated areas and drain excess fluids and toxins. It encourages the bodies natural healing processes which is why it is a method often utilized as a form of alternate physical therapy.
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What are the types of Chinese cupping techniques?
Cupping can be of two kinds–dry cupping and wet cupping (here’s a full comparison of wet and dry cupping). Dry cupping therapy is the typical treatment in which only vacuum is used. But wet cupping goes a step further. After the cup is left on the skin for about 3 minutes, the expert therapist removes the cup and makes a series of very slight cuts on the skin using a scalpel. At times, in place of a scalpel, the therapist might also use a needle to puncture the skin to draw two or three drops of blood. Then, using a second vacuum cup, the minute quantity of blood is sucked up. The cuts or punctures are then dressed with the proper medication so that they heal quickly. The theory behind this treatment is that it eliminates toxins and unhealthy materials from the body and thus induces healing. For further information view our more detailed guide to all different types of cupping techniques.
What are the meridian lines of Chinese medicine?
Traditional Chinese medicine believes that there are five meridian lines on the back of a person and these meridians are the paths through which life energy moves through the body. This energy flows through all the veins, arteries, organs and tissues. As long as this energy flow is smooth, the person is healthy, but any disruptions can cause disorders. Cupping treatment acts on up to 4 inches in depth from the surface of the skin and is thus highly beneficial. Possibly the most effective of deep tissue therapies, it can remove toxins and clear blockages from different meridian points in the body. Cupping can also be used on the legs, ankles, wrists and hands. It is believed that specific points on these sections of the body correlate to the different organs inside the body that are thus healed. For more information, check out our article, Overview of Traditional Chinese Medicine.
Can Anyone Receive Treatment?
Although a non-invasive form of treatment, Chinese cupping is not recommended for pregnant or menstruating women. Patients that have bone fractures or muscle spasms also cannot be given treatments. Further, in the case of patients that have a form of cancer that is spreading from one part of the body to the other, cupping is not advised. If the patient suffers from a condition because of which he/she bleeds easily or if he/she has a high fever with convulsions, the therapist may refrain from providing treatment. There are certain areas of the body where cupping must not be used such as an artery, ulcer, pulse points or any part where there is evidence of deep vein thrombosis. Since cupping treatments are usually performed on the soft tissues such as the fleshy parts of the body, therapists might not provide treatment to very thin patients. It is also not viable for very obese patients.
Chinese Cupping Therapy can be used to help with pain management and healing processes associated with the following disorders: orthopedic conditions, fibromyalgia, neuromuscular disorders, asthma, arthritis, and even depression. Cupping therapy should only be performed by those that are knowledgeable practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine. The Chinese Cupping method of treatment is often used in conjunction with acupuncture and massage therapy.
Patients usually do not experience any serious side-effects due to cup therapy except for some minor discomfort, circular bruises, swelling or slight burning. These effects are generally not painful and disappear in a few days and leave no lasting impressions. In rare cases, the patient might develop a skin infection. More on the Side Effects of Chinese Cupping Therapy.
Although cupping therapy has been used in many cultures for thousands of years, including traditional Chinese medicine, modern medicine is still skeptic about its effectiveness. Research into this form of healing is a yet inconclusive and patients are advised to use it only as a supplement to more reliable forms of treatment such as medicines and when needed surgery.
Chinese Cupping Therapy uses suction that can cause capillaries to break and improve blood circulation. When these capillaries break, there can be signs of bruising on the treated areas. The cups should not be placed at the same points several times. The cups should be moved around so that there will not be an instance of burning left on the skin. If the skin is burned, then the patient can see the effects of the burn in the form of blisters.
Furthermore, if the cupping treatment is repeatedly done in the same locations then there is a chance that the skin will die and when the skin dies, it will burn more easily. The burn will terminate the outer layer of skin and lead to blisters and infection. It is important that any Chinese Cupping Therapy is done by a knowledgeable and professional Chinese medicine practitioner.
If the individual is being treated for a condition such as hemophilia or any other bleeding disorders, it is not advised that Chinese Cupping Therapy is performed. The cupping therapy causes the blood to rise to the surface of the skin and causes bruising. If the individual is currently taking anticoagulants and bloodletting is involved in the cupping therapy, it can increase bleeding.
Chinese Cupping Therapy should also not be performed on people that have skin irritation, inflammation, burns, or any infections. There will be a mild amount of discomfort due to the removal of the stagnant blood and the loosening of the tissue and muscles. The bruising can last for a few days to a couple of weeks but the bruising was not due to blunt trauma and therefore should be relatively painless. As the stagnant blood is removed, the bruising should decrease. The bruising will also decrease as a number of toxins in the body are reduced.
Several people practice Chinese Cupping Therapy to help treat joint and muscle pain and soreness, loosen connective tissue, and treat a variety of other ailments; this includes Olympic athletes who use their muscles daily during events and training. While it is not scientifically recognized in the medical community as a form of treatment, it is still commonly practiced.
Olympic athletes have been seen with dark red circular spots and bruises on their backs, and this is due to their involvement with the Chinese Cupping Method treatment to help them with pain management and detoxification. While alarming, the bruises left on these Olympic athletes are not a cause for concern.
The Chinese Cupping Method as a form of physical therapy and alternative therapy has seen to be beneficial for many people. It has provided pain relief, reduced blood stagnation, and helps ease sore muscles while loosening stiff and tense muscle and connective tissue to promote improved blood circulation.
Before beginning any new therapy or treatment plan, it is important that you discuss all the risks and benefits associated with this cup therapy method with a trained professional or an individual that is well versed in traditional Chinese medicine and other forms of alternative medicine.
Traditional Chinese Medicine has expanded and evolved over the centuries and is regarded in modern times as a natural and alternative method of healing and prevention. The Chinese Cupping Method boasts of many beneficial properties and is a more affordable option than traditional medicine. Traditional Chinese medicine believes that cupping will dispel stagnant blood and Chi and strengthen the body and immune system. Modern science is still researching the possible benefits and risks associated with this alternate form of treatment.
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