Have you ever seen anyone with perfect red or dark purple circles on their back and wonder, "what the heck happened to them?" It looks like that person was attacked by a giant squid, right? Well, relax, you can get back into the water. That person probably just had therapeutic cupping done.
Since it's early beginnings in Asian medicine, cupping therapy has been used along side acupuncture and herbal practice as a technique to bring about better health. It's application involves the use of various cupping instruments which apply suction to the surface of the body. The action of creating a partial vacuum draws up the skin, stimulating blood circulation in the underlying musculature. It typically leaves a mark varying in color from light pink to dark purple which depends on the amount of what we call "blood stagnation" that is occurring in our patient.
Blood stagnation is a common source of pain which can occur anywhere in the body. When the blood isn't flowing properly it collects, and without natural movement it can't nourish the muscles and joints which can result in pain. Cupping helps to restore the free movement of blood and helps to soften tension, allowing your body to heal itself.
Traditionally heat has been used inside glass cups to create this vacuum which is commonly referred to as "fire cupping." Your practitioner may still use this method or they might have a cupping set that uses a pump to get the desired amount of suction in your treatment. Either way, the benefits are the same. Depending on your health needs, heat may be a useful complement to cupping therapy. Your practitioner will advise you on this at your appointment.
Cups can also be used in different ways and on different parts of the body. They can be left stationary to treat isolated musclegroups or they can be be used with massage oil or lotion, and moved over a larger surface such as the back. This technique of "sliding cups," I like to think of as a reverse massage. Instead of applying pressure into the muscle tissue, it pulls, which creates a very unique, yet specific sensation. One that most of my patients really love.
In addition to relieving muscle pain and tension, cupping can be used for internal medicine for digestive or gynecological disorders or problems of the lungs and skin. It helps to flush out toxins from the body, so if you have had cupping therapy done, make sure to drink plenty of water afterwards.
One of my most recent success stories using cupping therapy is of a woman who was suffering from debilitating migraines a couple times a month. With some changes to her diet and adding cupping to release the tension that accumulated during her work time in front of the computer, she no longer suffers from migraines.
If you're nervous about cupping, don't be. If you're nervous about acupuncture, don't be. I was once. I know it will help you and I think you'll actually like it.
For your good health, naturally. -SJ