Cupping therapy or "Chinese cupping" is an ancient Chinese therapy technique that involves placing suction cups on the body to stimulate blood flow and help combat muscular aches and pains.
It's been in use for centuries but has recently become the trend on everybody's lips.
But how much can it really help?
What is Cupping?
Cupping originated as a form of acupuncture and is often used alongside traditional acupuncture, but it is more commonly done on its own.
The "cups" themselves can be glass, bamboo, or clay, but the most effective cups are made from silicone due to its ability to bend and allow the cups to contour to your skin when suction is applied.
The most commonly claimed cupping benefits are for pain relief and muscle relaxation, both of which it has been used to successfully treat for years, along the lines of regular massage.
Despite this, new benefits are popping up every day with evidence suggesting that cupping can be useful in treating anxiety, chest congestion caused by allergies or asthma, skin complaints, and more.
While more research is needed, people generally claim to feel positive effects after experiencing a cupping session, and its effectiveness in aiding muscle recovery has been supported by such international athletes as Michael Phelps, Amir Khan and Andy Murray.
What are the Different Types of Cupping?
There is a variety of different methods of cupping that are using in different situations and by different practitioners.
The most common examples include:
Wet cupping is essentially a form of acupuncture.
A small cut is made in the skin and then the cup is applied, which leads to a small amount of blood being pulled from the incision before an antibiotic ointment is applied to protect from infection.
This method is believed to help remove toxins from the body and aid in recovery.
Dry cupping involves the cup being placed on the skin, and an attached pump being used to create suction on the skin, leaving a red mark.
This is similar to dry cupping but involves the cups being left in the same position for up to 10 minutes.
Moving cupping is similar to a massage, where the back is covered with oil to prevent friction and the suction cups are slowly moved around the back and body, stimulating and helping to relax the muscles.
What Does Cupping Do?
Cupping is believed to work by making more of our blood flow to the skin, which releases anti-inflammatory muscles in the body and triggers a mild response from our immune system.
It has also been found to improve blood circulation in general, increasing the amount going to tissues near the skin and helping to recover tired and damaged muscles.
A famous Chinese saying from centuries ago says: "Acupuncture and cupping, more than half of the ills cured", and it's not surprising they thought that way when we consider how many of our health issues and complaints are related to issues with blood flow, muscle tightness and general inflammation.
The ancient philosophy behind cupping was that one of the leading causes of pain is/was stagnation.
This could mean stagnation of the blood, of the lymphatic fluid, phlegm, or even of Qi, the energy they believe flows through all of us.
The lack of proof of Qi's existence aside, this is generally true and anything that aids the natural flow and rhythm of the body is sure to be a huge benefit.
With that in mind, let's take a look at a few of the claim benefits:
Benefits of Cupping Therapy
While more research is needed into this topic, most anecdotal evidence suggests that cupping is able to ease congestion and discomfort in the digestive system caused by stress, anxiety, muscular tension and more.
Muscle Tension & Relaxation
Cupping helps to reduce muscle tension, increase relaxation and help to loosen knots and stiff muscles, leading to increased recovery, tighter skin and muscle shape, flexibility and the overall feeling of health.
While the drawing of blood closer to the skin may help with this, it is likely an inflammatory effect is also behind a lot of it.
The tightening of the muscles has also been found to aid in decreasing visible cellulite.
Cupping on the face is a relatively new treatment but the tightening of the skin combined with the increased blood flow to the muscles had been found to help get rid of wrinkles, eye bags, fine lines and even things like eczema.
Issues Relating to Blood Flow
The increased blood flow that is caused by cupping can help to complaints such as varicose veins and other complications caused by blood flow issues.
Studies into cupping's effects on fibromyalgia have found that cupping reduces pain more reliably than normal healthcare pain relief techniques.
Other benefits that have been found include:
Moving on to less measurable benefits that will likely never be 100% proved by studies, fans of cupping therapy claim it works wonders for their general sense of relaxation and wellbeing, providing a similar "afterglow" feeling compared to a day at a spa.
As a result, Chinese suction cupping may well be beneficial when it comes to combating stress and anxiety, as we do know that acupuncture releases endorphins and can help to manage certain mental health issues in a holistic manner.
Are There Any Side Effects of Cupping?
While it may be slightly worrying to let somebody do this to our body, especially wet cupping, there is very little to worry about and the only known side effects of cupping therapy are the bruises and red marks that are left behind temporarily.
While you can expect some mild tenderness after receiving cupping treatment, these are temporary and nothing to worry about.
Obviously, infection can be a possible side effect in any situation where the skin is broken, but as long as this is carried out correctly and antibiotic ointment is applied, this is extremely unlikely.
Is Cupping Expensive?
This is where we have a little secret for you.
Cupping needs to be done several times to truly work, with the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine stating that improvements to skin colouring and appearance are typically visible after around 5 treatments.
Now, keeping in mind you'd likely need to continue visiting after this in order to maintain the results, the fact is that going to an experienced practitioner regularly is going to become fairly pricey.
Luckily, there is something that can allow you to experience all the benefits of regular cupping therapy without the cost, and these are home cupping therapy sets that allow you to regularly practice cupping on yourself or with loved ones.
We have come up with our own set that comes with 8 cups of different sizes, all made from high-quality medically approved silicone, allowing you to experience all the benefits of ancient Chinese cupping from the comfort of your own home for the rest of your life, all for less than the price of a single professional cupping treatment.
If you are interested in learning more about how cupping can benefit you, but not enough to spend money on a professional appointment, this is by far the cheapest and best way to dip your toes into the world of Chinese cupping therapy.
We will be back with more looks at some of the newest (and oldest) trends for health and skincare, so don't forget to keep it to Luminositie, and let us know about your cupping experiences!