Cupping therapy is a kind of alternate medicine that uses cups to create a vacuum over the specific points of the body that when treated can induce healing. A non-invasive form of healing, it has been widely practiced by many cultures although it is not clear whether the technique evolved distinctly or was passed on by people migrating to different locations. Cups or jars can be in shape of bells or balls with a diameter ranging from 1 to 3 inches or 25 to 76mm.
Over the centuries the materials to create the cups have changed as per availability. In many ancient cultures, healers used animal bones and horns, bamboo, nuts, gourds and even seashells to create the required suction. The North American Indians used buffalo horns in addition to other materials while in Finland, cups were made out of cow horns. These horns were further modified by adding a valve mechanism to suck the air out and create a vacuum.
In China, the earliest documentation by Ge Hong talks about using hollowed-out animal horns to create the suction thus giving it the name, the horn technique of Chinese cupping. Later accounts by Zhao Xuemin describe the use of bamboo and ceramic pottery to craft cups that were boiled in herbs before use. However, with repeated use bamboo cups tended to deteriorate rapidly and ceramic cups were too fragile. Hence the need arose for more sturdy cups leading to the use of wood and metals like brass, bronze and iron to make them.
With the invention of glass in the beginning of the 20th century, cups made of glass began to be preferred by cupping therapists. Glass cups were easier to make than iron and brass and were much more resilient. They provided another very important positive. Healers could watch the condition of the skin through the glass and assess the time for healing needed.
The end of the 20th century saw the invention of another technique that eliminated the use of fire and the risks of burning completely. This technique involved the installation of a valve at the top of the cup or jar being used. A hand-operated pump was used to create the necessary suction thus giving the healer more control over the amount of suction that could be applied. Later, plastic was also used but since the early cups did not have smooth edges, their use in cupping therapy was very limited. Cupping sets with a pump are widely used by practitioners all over the world.
In today’s times, cupping therapists use glass, plastic and also medical-grade silicone cups. Silicone is soft and flexible and is thus excellent for providing massage cupping therapy. It is also found to leave fewer bruises. Therapists prefer the use of mechanical rubber pumps to create suction and after suction, provide basic massages and hydration to minimize bruising. Rubber cups are found to be an excellent option for providing cupping therapy to locations that are bony and uneven.
Expert therapists now insist on the use of sterile disposable equipment especially for use during wet cupping treatments that when combined with optimum waste elimination procedures make cupping benefits completely safe and infection free for patients.
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