Cupping is the term applied to a technique that uses glass or plastic cups as suction devices that are placed on the skin to disperse and break up stagnation and congestion by drawing congested blood, fluids or other humors to the surface.
There are several ways that a practitioner can create the suction in the cups. One method, fire cupping, involves swabbing rubbing alcohol onto the bottom of the cup, then lighting it and putting the cup immediately against the skin. Suction can also be created by placing an plastic cup over the area and suction created by a pump. Both methods will render positive results. Cupping will result in a bruised area of varying colors; red, purple or yellow. The bruising will resolve within a few days.
Another method is when the cups are gently moved across the skin (often referred to as “moving cupping). Medical massage oils are sometimes applied to improve movement of the glass cups along the skin. The suction in the cups causes the skin and superficial muscle layer to be lightly drawn into the cup. Cupping is much like the inverse of massage – rather than applying pressure to muscles, it uses gentle pressure to pull them upward. For most patients, this is a particularly relaxing and relieving sensation. Once suctioned, the cups are generally left in place for about ten minutes while the patient relaxes.
Like acupuncture, cupping follows the lines of the meridians. By targeting the meridian channels, cupping strives to ‘open’ these channels. Cupping is one of the best deep-tissue therapies available. It is thought to affect tissues up to four inches deep from the external skin. Toxins can be released, blockages can be cleared, and veins and arteries can be refreshed within these four inches of affected materials. Even hands, wrists, legs, and ankles can be ‘cupped,’ thus applying the healing to specific organs that correlate with these points.