Established in the 1950s across hospitals in China, cupping affects the flow of Qi and blood. It helps draw out and eliminate pathogenic factors such as wind, cold, damp and heat. Cupping also moves Qi and Blood and opens the pores of the skin, thus precipitating the removal of pathogens through the skin itself.
According to traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), cupping is a method of creating a vacuum on the patient's skin to dispel stagnation— stagnant blood and lymph, thereby improving Qi flow— to treat respiratory diseases such as the common cold, pneumonia and bronchitis. Cupping is also used on back, neck, shoulder and other musculoskeletal conditions.
Remove the stagnation, and you will remove the pain."
Cupping is not exclusive to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Variations of this treatment were used by ancient Egyptians, North American Indians, early Greeks, and in other Asian and European countries. Cupping therapy was recommended by Hippocrates, the man whom many consider to be the "Father of Modern Medicine," in his guide to clinical treatment.
It should be noted that cupping is not to be used on patients who bleed easily and/or cannot stop bleeding, have skin ulcers, or edema. It is unwise to cup over large blood vessels as well. Pregnant women should be cupped with extreme caution and never on their abdomen or lower back.
One of the reasons why cupping therapy is often coupled with acupuncture is that both treatments follow the body's natural meridian lines, which are believed to be the pathways through which the body's "life energy," or “Qi," flows. Since it is traditionally used on the back, cupping therapy follows the back's five meridian lines, which is meant to both align and relax the Qi and open up all the channels through which energy flows.
-Dianne M. Connelly, Ph.D.
"Cupping is one of the best deep-tissue therapies available," adds PCOM. "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.”
Pain is the essence of disease. Suffering, or dis-ease, is experienced when things aren't flowing right, when there's some difficulty or obstruction to the natural flow and functioning of the body. This is what the Greek physician Galen meant when he spoke of disease as being the state contrary to nature. Following the Qi flow with this ancient technique is a great complement to massage therapy or used on its own for accelerated healing.
After removing the cups, you can further discern the client's condition by evaluating the marks.
- If the skin marking appears moist and water-filled, the client's internal condition is "damp" and yang-deficient.
- If the skin marking is colored dark red or purple-black, is filled with spotted bruises, and is warm to the touch, the client's internal condition is "overheated" and yang-excessive.
- If the skin marking is colored dark red or purple-black, but there are no spotted bruises and it's not warm to the touch, the client's internal condition has stagnated blood.
- If the skin marking has no change of color and is not warm to the touch, the client's internal condition is "cold" and yang-deficient.
- If the skin marking is itchy or wrinkled, the client's internal condition is cold and gaseous.
Connelly, Dianne. Traditional Acupuncture: The Law of the Five Elements. Laurel: Wisdomwell Press, 1994. Print.
Wong, Samuel. "Cupping Therapy: An Ancient Technique for the Modern World." Massage & Bodywork July/August 2016: 54-59. Print.
Photo credit: Samantha Forsberg on Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND