Cupping therapy is an ancient healing technique that has long been used to ease pain, improve blood flow, remove toxins and improve digestion. It’s nothing new, but has been gaining popularity due to celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Aniston, and athletes like Michael Phelps donning strange red circles on their skin. If you’re interested in learning more about cupping and whether it’s for you, take a look at 14 benefits and risks of this healing practice.
What Is Cupping Therapy & How Does It Work?
Cupping therapy is a technique that uses suction to pull on your skin and increase blood flow to the affected area. It’s an ancient alternative healing practice that can be traced back thousands of years to ancient Chinese, Egyptian, and Middle Eastern cultures. Cupping involves placing cups (made of plastic, glass, or silicone) on the skin to create suction. The cups are typically placed on the back, shoulders, stomach or legs, but can be used on any muscle group where it’s easy to attach the cups.
The cup is often heated and then placed with the open side directly onto your skin. When the hot cup is placed onto your skin, the air inside the cup cools and creates a vacuum that draws the skin and muscle into the cup. Some modern cupping practitioners have shifted to using rubber pumps to create suction versus traditional heating methods.
Cupping may help improve blood flow, boost immune function, remove toxins, and reduce pain. It’s also believed that cupping can balance yin and yang, or the negative and positive, within the body. This is thought to help with the body’s resistance to pathogens, and its ability to boost blood flow and reduce pain.
8 Benefits of Cupping Therapy
- Pain Relief: Cupping therapy is often used to alleviate pain and muscle tension. The suction is believed to increase blood flow to the affected area, which can help reduce inflammation and promote the body’s natural healing processes. On top of pain relief, cupping also reduces scar tissue deep within muscles and connective tissues, and decreases swelling and muscle knots.
- Reduces Stress and Anxiety: Many people find cupping therapy to be relaxing and stress-relieving. When the cups glide across your skin, your parasympathetic nervous system engages. Your parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for slowing your heart rate, assisting digestion, and increasing intestinal and gland activity. When it’s engaged, it promotes deep relaxation to move through your entire body.
- Promotes Healing: Cupping therapy is thought to promote healing by increasing the flow of vital energy (Qi in traditional Chinese medicine) and removing blockages in the body’s energy pathways.
- Boosts Blood Flow: The suction created by cupping increases circulation to the area where the cups are placed, which helps deliver oxygen and nutrients to the tissues. This helps soothe muscle tension, which can improve overall blood flow and boost cell repair. It can also help build new connective tissues and produce new blood vessels in the tissues.
- Reduces Stretch Marks and Scars: Increased blood flow allows your body to dispose of toxins, restores lymphatic circulation, and helps remove excess fluid, which reduces the appearance of scarring. Cupping has been found to have a positive effect on stretch marks and scars, even in areas that are far from where the cups were applied.
- Removes Toxins: Cupping may remove toxins by stimulating the immune response, both locally and systemically. It also may eliminate uric acid, a natural waste product, from the digestion of certain foods. Uric acid can lead to high levels of acidity in the blood and urine. Cupping is also thought to have a positive effect on the lymphatic system, which is partially responsible for eliminating your body’s waste.
- Improves Digestion: Cupping is also known for its ability to improve digestion and gut health. It can help clear colon blockages, break down fat, and promote bowel regularity. Cupping helps engage the parasympathetic nervous system, which increases blood flow to the digestive tract. Gentle cupping on the abdomen also stimulates the insides of your digestive organs. Since stress is highly tied to healthy digestion, cupping’s ability to reduce stress may also be helpful.
- Sports Recovery: Athletes and individuals with muscular restrictions often use cupping therapy to improve flexibility and increase the range of motion in affected muscles and joints.
6 Risks of Cupping Therapy
- Bruising and Skin Discolouration: Since cupping involves a suction effect on the skin, it can lead to bruising and skin discolouration. The extent of bruising can vary depending on the individual’s skin sensitivity and the intensity of the treatment.
- Skin Irritation: Some people may experience skin irritation, such as redness or mild rashes, at the cupping site. This is usually temporary and resolves on its own.
- Infection: In rare cases, there is a risk of infection if the skin is broken during the cupping process. It’s essential to use clean and sterile equipment and maintain proper hygiene during the procedure.
- Discomfort and Pain: While cupping is generally not painful, some individuals may experience discomfort or pain during and after the treatment, especially if the cups are applied too tightly or left in place for an extended period.
- Dizziness: The suction effect of cupping can cause a temporary drop in blood pressure, leading to dizziness or lightheadedness in some people.
- Not Suitable for Certain Conditions: Cupping therapy may not be suitable for people with certain medical conditions, such as bleeding disorders, skin conditions, or pregnant women. It’s essential to consult with a healthcare professional before undergoing cupping if you have any pre-existing health conditions.
If you’re considering cupping, weigh the risks and benefits and be sure to work with a licensed provider for the safest and best results.
This post contains affiliate links.
Did you find this post on cupping therapy informative? We’d love it if you shared it on Pinterest!
Looking for more information on health therapies? Be sure to follow our Health Board on Pinterest!