Cupping Techniques

There are many kinds of cupping techniques used all the over the world but the fundamental premise is that when the therapy is used in the correct way, on the appropriate areas of the body, healing can be induced. Modern day therapists administer cupping using sterilized cups that are steamed under pressure and heated to temperatures of over 250F degrees. This helps to reduce or possibly eliminate any chances of infections.

If you are looking for a cupping set, we recommend you check out our Best Cupping Sets article for details. (Spoiler alert: This set is our top choice)

Dry Cupping

Dry cupping is the very basic technique that uses cups to create a vacuum over the skin. Any combustible material such as alcohol, herbs or paper is lighted and slipped into the cup. As the fire goes out, the cup is immediately inverted over the selected area.

The cooling air inside the cup creates a vacuum causing the blood vessels under the skin to expand and redden. The cup is allowed to rest in the skin for about 10 minutes.

Another variation of this technique is to hold the cup over a small flame to heat the air inside it before placing on the skin. Many therapists might opt to place a piece of insulating material on the skin and place the lighted material on it before inverting the cup.

This practice extinguishes the flame immediately and ensures that there is no burning. Most administrators of the dry cupping technique use glass cups due to their durability, ease of sterilization, and ability to create a perfect seal for the vacuum.

For traditional cupping techniques using flame and cup, we recommend this glass cupping set

 Wet Cupping

bulb_cupping Wet cupping is possibly the most widely used technique. At first, suction is created similarly as in dry cupping and the cup is left on for about 3 minutes. Next the therapist uses a scalpel to make minute cuts on the skin.

A second cup is then administered to suck up a few drops of toxic blood and with it harmful substances from the body so healing can take place.

Later, the site is dressed with antibiotic ointments and sterile bandaging so that infection is prevented and the skin heals quickly.

Chinese cupping therapy might use a three-edged needle, a standard thick-gauge needle or a plum blossom needle to puncture the skin. If required the healer might squeeze the skin around the puncture site to assist in the flow of blood.

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As explained in our overview of Al Hijama, in Islamic cultures, wet cupping is called the Sunnah technique of Al Hijamah or cupping therapy. In most cases, this healing procedure is performed on an area on the back, in the section between the shoulder blades but closer to the neck.

Massage Cupping

Massage cupping is a form of dry cupping and is sometimes also called gliding cupping or moving cupping. In this form of healing, oil is applied to the skin before creating suction and once the vacuum is created the cup is gently moved over the skin so as to provide a form of inverse massage therapy.

This technique is popularly used for weight loss and cellulite reduction. Therapists or individuals, in today’s times might also use rubber or medical-grade silicone cups to provide this therapy because these materials are softer and more flexible for moving.

For massage cupping, I recommend this set of highly reviewed silicone cups and this oil. (You can find a 4 cup set instead of the 6 here)

Vacuum Cupping

Vacuum cupping therapy also known as air cupping eliminates the use of fire and heat completely. In this form of healing, a pump is attached to the top of the cup and vacuum is created by pumping the air out of the cup. The therapist cleans and sterilizes the targeted area on the patient’s body and applies herbal oils or skin cream for lubrication. Next the equipment is prepared by washing it with warm salty water. The appropriate sized cups are then placed on the patient’s body and suction is caused by pumping the air out.

The mechanism used is simple. A connector links the cup to the pump that sucks the air out. Once the optimum amount of suction is created, the valve on the top of the cup is closed and the connector and pump are disconnected. This is a very common and popular type of cupping because there is no flame needed to create the vacuum and the administrator has complete control over the amount of suction.

Even complete professional grade cupping sets with a pump are very affordable (usually less than $50). This AcuZone Cupping Set is the best. 

This form of cupping can also be used to perform massage cupping therapy by moving the cup along the skin. Once the proper time frame has passed, the cup is gently eased away from the skin by first opening the valve to release the vacuum. This technique ensures that the skin in not damaged. In many cases, the skin can show a darkened appearance where the suction is applied.

This darkening clears up in a few days. In case blisters appear, they can be pricked to remove the accumulation of toxic blood and fluids which is a form a wet cupping. The wounds are then covered with antiseptic ointments and dressing to speed up the healing of the skin. In a way, vacuum therapy can be used to combine three forms of cupping therapy in a single session.

Myofascial Cupping

Whereas Chinese cupping therapy targets the 12 meridians in the patient’s body to induce healing, myofascial cupping is directed at the muscular and skeletal system of the body. This form of therapy uses mechanical suction equipment to create the required vacuum. A cup or a cylinder is attached to a hand operated suction pump and this cup is applied on the skin (same technique used in vacuum therapy discussed above).

The therapist may first massage the patient’s body to locate the areas that need treatment. Later, herbal oils or cream is spread on the skin before attaching the cup. Cups of varying sizes can be used and often, more than one cup is applied at a single time.

Typically, there is minimal bruising that dissipates in a few days time. The patient also does not experience any pain. Myofascial cupping attracts blood to the affected area that brings the essential nutrients to assist in healing. The reverse pressure exerted by the suction gently increases flexibility in the tissues and eliminates swelling if any. If there is any blockage and accumulation of fluids, it is released. This form of therapy works very effectively in case of patients that cannot undergo acupuncture treatment and can also be used to perform massage therapy.

Myofascial cupping is used to relieve any injuries received when playing sports. Patients with conditions related to the muscles and bone structure will find that this therapy is very effective. Ailments like back and neck pain, sprained muscles, strained tissues and other such problems can be alleviated with the use of myofascial cupping.

The previous cupping set We recommended for vacuum cupping is a great choice for those wishing to practice myofascial cupping.

 Fire Cupping and Alcohol Fire Cupping

Glass CuppingThis kind of cupping is also called flash-fire cupping or Shanhuofa in Chinese cupping. A cotton ball is soaked in a solution that contains up to 70% alcohol. The ball is held by a pair of forceps or pliers and lit with matches or a lighter. It is held inside the cup to create heat and then quickly removed before inverting the cup on the skin.

Another variation called Dijiufa or alcohol fire cupping is to pour a small quantity of alcohol into the cup and light it. The fire is allowed to go out before inversion.

Magnetic Cupping

Magnets are known to have positive effects on the body since they can induce the movement of electric currents through the body. These currents aid in the blood circulation in the body and since blood carries oxygen-rich nutrients to different parts of the body, magnets can assist in the healing of many ailments. Magnets when combined with the healing effects of cupping therapy have shown to do wonders for patients’ health. While sometimes difficult to find, we offer two cupping sets in our store that use magnets.

The therapist begins by applying soothing oils or creams on the patient’s skin. The mechanism used for magnetic cupping is similar to vacuum cupping and mechanical pumps are used to create suction. Except in this case, a small cylindrical magnet is also fitted to the bottom of the cup. When a vacuum is created inside the inverted cup, the skin rises and comes in contact with the magnet. Since the magnet is set to target specific points on the patient’s body, it is also a form of acupressure. In this way, magnetic cupping provides the benefits of both cupping therapy and acupressure.

As per the needs of the patient, the therapist might place more than one or two cups on the skin simultaneously. The cups can be left on the skin for about 15 minutes at a time. To release the cups, the therapist relaxes the suction by again using the air pump. Patients might notice a little redness and circular marks on the skin after a magnetic cupping session. But these marks typically disappear in a few days’ time.

Facial or Face Cupping

Facial or face cupping is a cosmetic therapy designed to improve the appearance of facial skin and reduce signs of aging such as wrinkles, dark circles and puffiness around the eyes, facial scarring, sagging skin and double chins. Symptoms of rosacea and acne are also removed and it works to alleviate headaches and earaches.

Patients suffering from sinus problems, allergies and facial paralysis resulting from Parkinsons’ disease or a stroke have also reported improvement. Facial cupping can help to provide relief in conditions where there is stiffness of the Temporal Mandibular Joints or the joints that help in the movement of the jaw for speaking, chewing or facial expressions.

The cupping therapist uses special glass cups that are particularly designed for use on the face. These cups are attached to a small rubber bulb that acts like a pump to create suction on the skin. The skin is first prepared with the application of organic herbal oils or healing creams. Once a light suction is created, the cup is moved over the face, neck, shoulders and upper chest. This movement stimulates the flow of blood to the skin that is flushed with oxygen and essential nutrients.

These factors serve to repair and nurture the skin giving it a more glowing and youthful appearance. The skin is more supple and collagen formation is improved. Further any impurities are moved to the lymphatic system and later expelled from the body. Any lines and scars on the face are also plumped up, reducing their ungainly appearance. Unlike other forms of cupping, there are never any treatment marks on the skin.

A popular, and well reviewed, choice is this facial cupping set

Acupuncture cupping

This therapy uses a combination of acupuncture and wet cupping. Acupuncture needles are inserted into the appropriate points in the patient’s skin. Leaving the needles in place, the therapists places heated cups over the area to create a vacuum also.

Liquid cupping

Liquid cupping is also called Shuiguanfa in Chinese cupping. It is so called because the bamboo cups used to create suction were first boiled in a solution steeped with herbs before instantly being applied on the skin.

Horn therapy

In ancient China, animal horns were used to administer cupping thus giving it the name horn therapy or horn cupping.

Herbal Cupping

This is a form of Islamic cupping. A herbal solution was put into the cup before creating a vacuum.

Hot Cupping

Another form of Islamic cupping, this technique is a variation of acupuncture cupping. A needle heated with dried mugwort or Artemisia vulgaris leaves is used to pierce the skin before placing a cup to create suction.

Water cupping

This Islamic technique of cupping is perhaps the most rarely used of all cupping therapies. A cup is filled to a third of its capacity with warm water. Next a ball of burning cotton is slipped into the cup and instantly inverted over the skin. Expert therapists can perform this cupping without spilling a single drop of water.

For more information on cupping sets, check out our review of the Top 5 Cupping Sets

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