What is Cupping Therapy?

If you don’t know what cupping is or you’ve never heard of it before, no worries! We’re going to explore exactly what cupping is and 5 benefits of cupping therapy.

Basically, Cupping is a form of therapy where Suction cups are placed on the body of the patient by a trained practitioner and then heated with fire. After heating, the rims of the cups are sealed and the heated cups create a partial vacuum after the cups cool off. This enables the cup to suck the skin, pulling in skin tissue and promoting blood flow.

The concept is similar to acupuncture where “Qi” is drawn to areas with poor blood or lymph circulation in order to create a suction effect which raises the skin and draws the blood to the surface.

It is commonly used throughout the Middle East, Asia, and Europe to treat inflammation, pain, swelling, bronchitis, rheumatism, and even help relieve symptoms of the common cold. Recent studies have indicated that it could be a promising form of treatment for a host of various ailments as well.

The procedure involves using glass or ceramic cups, metal bells, bamboo tubes, and a wide host of other items. Recently, however, the use of glass jars, plastic, and silicone are the recommended tools.


Methods of Cupping Therapy

There are various methods of cupping techniques being used throughout the world, but the two common ones are wet cupping and dry cupping.


Dry Cupping

Dry cupping is the basic and most common technique that is used. Cups are used to create a vacuum over your skin. A combustiblecupping-glasses material, such as herbs, alcohol or paper will be lit and put into the cup. As the fire goes out, the cup will be placed over the selected area. The cooling air that is inside the cup will create a vacuum, which causes the blood vessels under the skin to redden and expand. The cup may be placed here for up to ten minutes.

In another variation of dry cupping, the cup will be held over a flame to heat the air inside it before it is placed on your skin.

Many therapists choose to put a piece of insulating material over the skin and place the lighted material on it before inverting the cup. This method will extinguish the flame right away, so it won’t burn you.

Most who use the dry cupping method use glass cups because they are durable and easy to sterilize. Plus, they create a perfect seal.


Wet Cupping

This is not used in traditional Chinese medicine, but is still popular around the world. Some studies show it to be more effective in treating some problems such as migraines, nonspecific lower back pain, and post-herpetic neuralgia. As to its other acclaimed health benefits, on the other hand, those remain in contention.

Nevertheless, there are clinics throughout Europe and the Americas which do provide wet cupping services under sterile medical conditions, if you’re interested.

Although it requires bleeding, it should be understood that it is not the same as bloodletting. Bloodletting requires the opening of veins by cutting them with a scalpel, puncturing them with a needle, or by using a leech applied to the skin. This extracts blood with tiny incisions to the skin’s surface after cupping.

In the UK, the clinics that provide this service make use of sterile plastic cups which are disposed of after each use. The patient’s back is first sterilized with alcohol, after which oil is rubbed on the shoulders, as well as the upper and lower back.

In the beginning, suction will be created similarly as in dry cupping, but instead of leaving the cup on for 10 minutes, it will be left on for about 3 minutes. Next, the therapist will take a scalpel to make minute incisions on your skin. During this time, a second cup will be placed in the area in order to suck up a couple of drops of the toxic blood and the harmful substances from your body – this will allow the healing to take place.

When completed, you will be dressed with antibiotic ointments and sterile bandaging should be applied in order to prevent infection. Wet cupping may sound scary, but it isn’t as painful as you may think it is.


Needle Retaining Cupping

Needle-Retaining Cupping is another form of cupping. This method involves a combination of acupuncture and cupping. A cup is attached to the area around one or more of the retained needles. The cup and needles are removed after 5 to 10 minutes or when the localized skin becomes red.

Cupping, both wet and dry, is an ancient technique still practiced today by millions. Recently celebrities have even taken it up, increasing its popularity further. Dry cupping raises few eyebrows, in addition to the ugly bruises it leaves behind. However, there have been no reports of any complications arising from cupping sessions.

As such, it’s generally safe, if done properly. There are even home kits that you can buy so you can do it on your own in the comfort of your own home. If you remember the five-minute rule and do it no more than twice a week, you should be good to go.

As for wet cupping, that’s a decision you would have to make on your own or discuss with your doctor. Under the right conditions, it can be perfectly safe and can’t possibly be worse than some of the other alternative methods available. Listed below are 5 benefits of cupping therapy.


5 Benefits of Cupping Therapy


Helps with Muscle Stiffness

Cupping has been proven to release the muscles and decrease muscle stiffness around the affected areas. Loosened muscles provide an influx of blood to the region and softens the main muscle tissue. This results in better range of motion and increased flexibility.

Helps you Relax

Like other massage techniques, cupping might be extremely relaxing. The work is generally done in a comforting environment and relaxing music and ambient sounds might be incorporated to enhance the complete experience.

Boost Energy Flow within the Body

Cupping can be utilized to boost energy flow within the body. By targeting certain parts of the body, stagnant, negative energy are dropped at the top, enabling the free flow of electricity or “Qi” to move through these points. The cups can be placed within the traditional energy collection points, which are also triggered during acupuncture and shiatsu massage.

Enhance Emotional Well-being

The Chinese believe that a healthy energy flow is thought to enhance the actual and emotional well-being of the client.

Pain Relief

Trials demonstrate that clients who received cupping sessions discovered that it treated chronic pain and helped boost range of motion to injured areas. The customers who experienced this pain relief reported the results lasted longer than the pain relief from other treatments.



As you can see, there are many benefits to cupping. This is the major reason why you see so many athletes in the Olympics with those odd round circles on their back and arms (it’s from cupping).

In addition to the the 5 benefits listed above, cupping therapy is also used for deep tissue therapy and respiratory conditions. So, if you’re looking for an alternative way to treat an ailment, you may want to consider cupping therapy as a method of treatment.