By K. Murray Decio, M.S.O.M, L.Ac

What is Cupping?

Cupping has gained a lot of mainstream attention this week; Olympic athletes such as Michael Phelps have been seen with dark circular bruises on his back and shoulders. This isn’t the first time cupping has been in the lime light. We have seen other celebrities and athletes over the years with these strange dark circles on their backs. A lot of people are wondering: “what is this?” and “what are the benefits of cupping? “

The ancient art of Cupping is a healing technique that has been used for over 3000 years, most notably in Asia. Cupping is one of the several modalities used in Chinese Medicine. This healing technique uses cups (plastic, bamboo or glass), which are placed on the skin, to create suction to stimulate blood flow, unblock stagnation, draw blood and to remove heat toxins from the body.

There are different cupping methods, but the most common is called fire cupping. This is done by using a flammable substance (alcohol on a cotton ball) and inserting the flame into the cup. When the flame goes out, the cup is quickly placed onto the skin creating a suction. The cups are left for no more than ten minutes.

Cupping is used for various reasons, but typically Chinese medicine practitioners use it for pain relief, asthma, reducing the severity of colds/flu, and speeding the recovery time in injury and athletes.

Cupping does not nor should hurt; some people might find it uncomfortable though I have found that most people love it and find tremendous relief from this modality. In fact, I have a lot of my patients asking to be cupped regularly.