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  • Alexis Hileman L.Ac.

What does cupping therapy do?

Updated: Feb 19, 2019


What is cupping?

Cupping is an ancient type of alternative therapy that involves placing cups on the skin to create suction, which may facilitate healing with blood flow. Cupping dates back to ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern cultures. One of the oldest medical textbooks in the world, the Ebers Papyrus, describes how the ancient Egyptians used cupping therapy in 1,550 B.C.

Cupping was established as an official therapeutic practice in the 1950s across hospitals in China after research conducted by Chinese and former Soviet Union acupuncturists confirmed cupping’s effectiveness. Prior to the 1950s, cupping had also been practiced as an auxiliary method in traditional Chinese surgery. ~ Pacificcollege.edu

Those who subscribe to Taoism, believe that cupping helps balance yin and yang, or the negative and positive, within the body. Restoring balance between these two extremes is thought to help with the body’s resistance to pathogens. It may also increase the body's ability to increase blood flow and reduce pain.


Cupping increases blood circulation to the area where the cups are placed. Alternative medicine therapists may recommend this ancient procedure to relieve muscle tension, which can improve overall blood flow and promote cell repair. It may also help form new connective tissues and create new blood vessels in the tissue.


What conditions does cupping treat?

Cupping has been used to treat a wide variety of conditions. It can be effective at easing conditions that create muscle aches and pains. Since the cups can also be applied to major acupressure points, the practice is possibly effective at treating digestive issues, skin issues, and other conditions commonly treated with acupressure.


Cupping may also help with:

  • shingles

  • facial paralysis

  • cough and dyspnea

  • acne

  • lumbar disc herniation

  • cervical spondylosis

There are two types of cupping

There are two types of cupping - dry and wet. During both types of cupping, your therapist will put a flammable substance such as alcohol, herbs, or paper in a cup and set it on fire. As the fire goes out, we'll place the cup upside down on your skin.


As the air inside the cup cools, it creates a vacuum, which will cause your skin to rise and redden as your blood vessels expand. The cup is generally left in place for up to 10-15 minutes. A more modern version of cupping uses a rubber pump instead of fire to create the vacuum inside the cup. You may see some therapists use silicone cups, which they can move from place to place on your skin for a massage-like effect.


With wet cupping, cups are usually only in place for a few minutes before the practitioner removes the cup and makes a small incision to draw blood. Wet cupping is believed to remove harmful substances and toxins from the body to promote healing. After the cups are removed, you may have the cupped areas covered with ointment and bandages. This helps prevent infection.


Cupping is sometimes performed along with acupuncture treatments. For best results, you may also want to fast or eat only light meals for two to three hours before your cupping session.

Here's a quick, informative video about cupping.


What to expect

When visiting Balanced Being Alternative Health for the first time, you can expect a process that is designed to understand why you are here and to recommend treatments that make sense. During your first visit we will have a private consultation where we will discuss your current health concerns as well as your pertinent health history. This gives you the opportunity to express any concerns or questions you may have. There is a thorough traditional diagnosis, which consists of looking at the tongue, taking your pulse, and asking specific questions to get to the root of your current imbalance.


During this consultation, you may be asked about elements of your life that you might not have considered to be related to your main complaint. For example, sleeping habits and patterns, your emotional situation, your diet and eating habits, and other lifestyle matters. In Chinese medicine your practitioner assesses the whole person - not only the symptoms or one specific symptom. Learn more HERE.


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