Cupping therapy, or suction cup therapy, is known as an alternative medicine to acupuncture and is performed to help with pain, inflammation, blood flow, and relaxation. When getting this treatment, a therapist usually requires you to lie down and puts special cups on your back for a few minutes to create a tight suction. In this position blood is pulled to a region of your body to stimulate healing. This form of therapy is effective at stretching tight fascia and muscles, and helps tissue in the body develop new blood flow.
While this may seem like a new and trendy form of therapy, it was actually used in ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern cultures. In fact, one of the oldest medical textbooks in the world, the Ebers Papyrus, describes how the ancient Egyptians used cupping therapy in 1,550 B.C.
How Does Cupping Therapy Work?
The cups that are applied to your skin come in a variety of materials such as bamboo, earthenware, silicone, and — the more commonly used — glass. There are also two different types of cupping methods including dry cupping and wet cupping. When doing both types of cupping, the therapist will apply a flammable substance, such as alcohol, herbs or paper in one of the cups and light it on fire. As the fire dies out, it will then be applied to your skin so the opening of the cup is pressed against your back.
As the air inside the cup cools down, it creates a vacuum, causing your skin to raise and become red as your blood vessels expand. The cup is usually left in place here for about three minutes before it is removed. In more modern practices of cupping, a rubber pump is often used instead of fire, in order to create the vacuum seal inside the cup. Some therapists also use silicone cups so they can move it from place to place on your back for a deep-tissue massage.
Starting Suction Cup Therapy
Generally, if you’re doing cupping for your first time you’ll get three to five cups placed on your body. Although, you can also start with one to see how it feels and how your body reacts to it, then add more. If you begin to cup more regularly, you can work your way up to five, six, or seven cups. It’s common to see light or dark circular bruising after, but don’t be alarmed — this is normal and means that it’s working.
Next time you're planning a day of rest and relaxation, consider going to a local cupping therapist. One of our favorite places to go to in Los Angles is Seed of Life, where you can get a 30 minute session for $45.
Cupping Therapy Benefits:
- Helps reduce pain points
- Promotes relaxation
- Known to boost skin health
- Helps treat respiratory issues and colds
- Can improve digestion