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Cupping Therapy is an Alternative & Ancient Chinese Healing Method


cupping massage isolated on white



Relatively unknown to most people living in the West until recently, cupping therapy is an alternative therapeutic method that has been popular in China for some thousand years or even longer. There was a lot of discussion about "cupping" at the Rio Olympics in 2016 among the commentators. It has become popular with successful sportsmen because it is said that there are a host of health benefits.

According to IBT "During the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, Brazil, American Swimmer, Michael Phelps caused an internet storm when he was seen sporting the red circular marks left by cupping. During the procedure, a cup is suctioned onto part of the body causing the skin to raise and blood to rush to the area. This leaves bruises that can take over a week to heal."

What is cupping therapy?

This therapy uses cups rather than needles (acupuncture) and focuses on the surface of the skin rather than penetrating the skin. It can be a wet or dry method rather than just dry.

And of course any alternative practice will come:

(a) without the risk of unwanted side effects of pharma drugs and

(b) without the risk of being unable to participate in your sport because of a banned substance.

It is common for cupping therapy to be used along with massage therapy, essential oils or acupuncture. Only a few scientific studies have been carried out on this method but these have found that cupping works by expanding the capillaries and increasing the amount of fluid entering and leaving tissues as well as provoking a relaxation response in some, leading to lower stress levels.

Top 7 health benefits from cupping

1. Helps reduce pain

2. Promotes relaxation

3. Boosts skin health by reducing herpes, cellulite, acne and other skin inflammation.

4. Helps treat respiratory issues and colds by nourishing the lungs and clearing away congestion. Also helps in blood flow and moving lymphatic fluid throughout the body.

5. Improves Digestion. Acupuncture and cupping are both popular ways to improve digestion and reduce symptoms from disorders like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Cupping therapy has always found to benefit those suffering from frequent stomach pain.

6. Promotes Qi or life force.

7. Boosts energy.

How is cupping carried out?

Cupping involves the use of cups applied to a patient’s back in a series of positions in order to produce suction so that the vacuum effect achieved targets the skin and deep tissue in affected areas. This is beneficial for dulling pain, breaking up deep scar tissue while relaxing tender muscles or connective tissue.

Cupping is very different from massaging because, instead of applying pressure to swollen areas, it draws pressure out. A trained practitioner will place cups on his or her patient's back before carefully heating the cups using fire. This can be by a cupping torch which is used to light the cups on fire safely or the cups are heated in hot water or oil. The hot cups are then sealed off and held in place for 5 to 15 minutes until they cool down. This produces the vacuum effect. The cups contract while in place, causing suctioning and pulling the skin into the cup, stretching out skin tissue and improving blood flow. You can see this from the image at the top of this page. “Moving cupping” is similar but involves applying massage oil to the skin first, which helps the heated cups glide over tense areas on the patient’s back.

Cupping and acupuncture

Cupping and acupuncture are similar because they both promote optimal “Qi” by drawing energy and blood flow to areas of the body that (a) are experiencing the problems of inflammation, (b) are prone to low lymphatic circulation or (c) are perhaps experiencing poor blood flow. They are just two of the ancient Chinese treatments.

There are more.

Sometimes the two healing methods are combined by placing an acupuncture needle into the patient’s skin and then covering the needle with a cup.




Aboushanab, T. S., & AlSanad, S. (2018). Cupping therapy: An overview from a modern medicine perspective.
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2005290117302042. (Accessed, Jun 8, 2021).

Bridgett, R., et al. (2018). Effects of cupping therapy in amateur and professional athletes: Systematic review of randomized controlled trials [Abstract].
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29185802(Accessed, Jun 8, 2021).

Cao, H., et al. (2012). An updated review of the efficacy of cupping therapy.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3289625/(Accessed, Jun 8, 2021).