Cupping hit the mainstream media eye with Gwyneth Paltrow’s shoulders and then in the 2016 Olympics with Michael Phelps and other Olympians showing their godlike bodies with the characteristic circular cup marks on key areas of their anatomies …
In fact cupping has a long and rich history both in the East and the West as a medical therapeutic intervention of choice. From Europe to China it was used as a major treatment modality. The difference being that the Chinese have continued to use and study the effects of cupping to the present day.
Cupping refers to the therapeutic use of rounded ‘cup-like’ vessels held on the skin with suction. These were in fact usually made from bamboo sections or clay, but these days most cups are either glass (the best) or plastic. Fire cupping refers to the use of a flame to create the suction of the cup to the skin. The strength of suction can be finely controlled by increasing or decreasing the time between removing the flame and holding the cup to the skin. Alternatively a suction pump action cup system can be used.
Cupping has a number of therapeutic effects:
- brings blood to the surface of muscles and sub-dermally into the capillaries. It pushes blood circulation through points of stagnation in the muscle tissue – changing local blood micro-circulation.
- stimulates cell repair.
- clears pathogenic influences – in Chinese medicine vocabulary: cold, damp and wind are examples of external pathogens which can lodge into the muscle and surface tissue causing pain and dysfunction.
- changes the local tissue chemistry resulting in a boost to the immune system.
The therapeutic benefits of cupping are generally for the relief of pain. Other benefits include improved circulation, stimulation of the immune system and the elimination of pathogens such as the wind/cold that is the cause of the common cold. Other uses of cupping include the treatment of rheumatic diseases, skin problems, migraine and bronchial congestion. Cupping is even employed on the face (using very small cups) to aid stroke recovery.
Cupping is especially beneficial on the back and major joints of the body such as shoulders, hips, knees etc. So cupping is not just a recent treatment of choice for elite athletes – it also has a lot to offer those with muscular skeletal pain and those who are recovering from injury or operation.
I offer cupping as and when necessary as part of my holistic treatment programme. I use dry cupping only which means applying the cups to the skin, mediated by a small amount of neutral massage oil.