Cupping is a traditional therapy used in several cultures and countries including Chinese Medicine. Cupping is the use of “cups” that have had the air pushed out to create a vacuum effect. The cups were traditionally made of bamboo, and in modern times, glass. A flame is held under the inverted cup to push the air out and create a vacuum. There are also plastic cups that you can pump or even squeeze the air out of. The cups are then applied to the body, and the vacuum literally pulls what the Chinese call “dead,” or old, blood up from deeper in the body to the surface layers so that the healthy circulating blood and lymphatic system can get rid of these toxins.
The idea is that where there is poor circulation, usually in a tight muscle, some of the blood gets cut off from circulation by the tension. This blood becomes old, the red blood cells die, and this then becomes toxic. The cupping facilitates or speeds up the release and processing of these toxins by pulling them up to where there is healthy circulation.
The detoxifying and relaxing effect of the cupping can be enhanced by moving the cups along the body. This is called “running cups,” and usually oil is applied to the body before doing this to facilitate the moving cups. At Orlando Acupuncture we use mint and other essential oils that help to promote the circulation and detoxification process.
Cupping therapy can be a big help for tight muscles, especially the upper back and shoulder area. It is very helpful when old injuries have left scar tissue, and there are usually some toxins there as well. After cupping, purple or other discolorations of the skin can appear in the circular shapes of the cups. The discoloration can be caused by the toxins coming to the surface and usually go away within 24 – 48 hours. Cupping is also used for productive coughs, to try and dislodge some of the phlegm.
We typically use cupping in conjunction with manual therapy, or Tui-Na. The manual massage helps to facilitate the removal of the toxins and gives a better result than cupping alone.