Cupping therapy is an alternate form of medicine that has proven to be effective in helping patients with many ailments. As with other forms of alternative medicine, it is advisable to consider all the possible side effects of the treatment.
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Cupping therapy, when performed by a certified therapist, typically does not have any long lasting side effects. In modern day cases, most therapists have procedures that can eliminate most signs of the treatment having been performed. The remaining minor effects, usually bruising, tend to disappear within a short time.
There are two main types of cupping therapy, dry and wet cupping. Here is what you should expect after each type of cupping treatment:
Dry Cupping Side Effects
In the case of dry cupping, suction is created by inserting a burning object inside a glass cup that is removed before inverting the cup on the specific points on the patient’s body. In cases where the burning object such as a cotton ball or herbs is left in the cup, the therapist might place an insulation pad on the skin to ensure that there is no burning. Patients can be assured that the skin is never burnt.
Most patients experience a relaxing sensation coupled with relief when cupping therapy is performed. They might also experience a slight twinge when the skin is pulled up by suction. Because the skin is tugged upwards, sometimes tiny capillaries under the surface of the skin tend to expand, and after the cup is removed, patients might notice a circular bruise accompanied by some amount of swelling. However, these bruises are not painful, and cupping therapists might perform massage therapy and hydration to assist in the healing of these marks.
In place of glass or plastic cups, therapists might also use cups made of medical grade silicone that is heated to an elevated temperature to sterilize them before use. These silicone cups are more flexible and move more easily over the skin, reducing the chances of bruising.
Silicone cups are now commonly used by people looking to perform cupping therapy on themselves due to the lack of flame and the ability to target certain areas of the body such as using cupping for cellulite.
Wet Cupping Side Effects
Wet cupping is another form of cupping where the suction is alternated by performing tiny cuts with a scalpel on the skin to allow the release of toxic blood and fluids from the body and thus promote healing. When combined with acupuncture, the cupping therapist might insert needles in the pressure of the patient’s body. In rare cases, when these instruments are not sterilized properly, skin infections can occur.
Thus, this form of cupping therapy must be performed under sterile conditions, using disinfected instruments. Later antiseptic ointments and dressing are applied to eliminate the risk of infections. The cuts typically heal within a few days leaving behind no scarring. Patients can also request for local anesthesia so they don’t feel any pain when the cuts are performed.
While the possible side effects of cupping therapy are minimal, it is preferable to seek treatment from a certified professional therapist. To further reduce any possibility of side effects, patients must follow the instructions of the healer regarding the precautions to be taken post-treatment.
History of Chinese Medicine
Traditional Chinese medicine has been in practice for several years and can even be dated back to the Shang Dynasty in 1766 BC and was also practiced several years before. Chinese herbal medicine and other alternative forms of traditional Chinese medicine are used to restore the balance of energy and the forces of energy within the body.
Benefits of Cupping
The Cupping Method, when done correctly, can relieve blood stagnation, improve blood circulation, decrease high blood pressure, loosen connective tissue, promote healing and relaxation, and many other benefits. Traditional Chinese medicine often uses the cupping method in addition to other alternative forms of medicine such as acupuncture and massage therapy.
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When cupping therapy is used in conjunction with acupuncture, the suction and negative pressure during the treatment will supply the body with several benefits. Acupuncture is another traditional Chinese medicine, but instead of using cups on the skin, acupuncture employs the use of needles that are inserted into the skin and is typically painless. The benefits of acupuncture, when combined with the cupping therapy method, are vast and produce minimal side effects.
Other Possible Side Effects of Cupping Therapy
Cupping can be an uncomfortable process at times and will more than likely leave swelling and bruises at the site of treatment. The suction causes the blood to flow to the surface of the skin which causes the swelling. The bruises are not like typical bruises. Since the bruises were not caused by any trauma, they will not cause pain. For further explanation, we have an entire article devoted to more information on cupping bruising.
According to traditional Chinese medicine, the bruising will seem more severe if there is a higher level of toxins found in the body. After repeated sessions, the number of toxins in the body are reduced, and this helps to reduce the occurrence of bruising and swelling at the treatment sites.
There are cases of burns that have occurred during cupping therapy due to the flammable substances that are used to heat the glass or silicone cups. If not treated, these burns can cause a skin infection and can make an individual sick. Burning rarely occurs during cupping therapy, however, if it is performed by a knowledgeable traditional Chinese medicine practitioner that is familiar with this form of alternative medicine and therapy.
Cupping side effects are relatively minimal during suction cup therapy, but lightheadedness and dizziness could also occur during treatment, as well as sweating or nausea. If wet cupping was performed there also may be some slight pain at the site of the cuts that were made during the cupping therapy.
The site of treatment should always be cleaned and treated to avoid any form of infection before the therapy begins and after the therapy has ended. Following proper procedures, such as cleaning the treatment site, can greatly reduce the risk of infection and skin irritation.
There can also be instances of burning or blistering at the treatment site if the glass cups were left in one particular area for too long, or if they were placed on the skin while they were too hot. There may also be a slight warming sensation when the cups are placed on the skin because the patient will experience the increased blood flow. Infections are rare and cause minimal problems if treated early and immediately. Always be sure that the cups used during cupping therapy are sterilized prior to use.
To ensure cleanliness and a sterile cupping therapy environment, the practitioner should wear an apron and use gloves during the treatment process. It is important that the practitioner is researched and evaluated prior to treatment to ensure that the environment is clean and protected against the risk of diseases like hepatitis and HIV.
Cupping therapy is not recommended for certain individuals such as children, the elderly, or pregnant or menstruating women. Evaluate the conditions present when the cupping therapy is performed and become educated on the method they use and how they choose to implement their safety factors.
If the above steps are followed, then there is minimal risk of long-term side effects associated with this form of therapy. Always discuss any treatment plan before beginning to ensure that there are no pre-existing conditions like internal organ disorders or other medical problems that can cause side effects from a cupping therapy treatment session.
Cupping side effects can vary from person to person. As long as the treatment is done in a clean and sterile environment by a practitioner that is knowledgeable in the area of traditional Chinese medicine, the risk is minimal when compared to the reward and the benefits of pain management, detoxification, and relaxation.
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