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  • Writer's pictureDr. Monica L. Hilton, DACM, LAc

What is Cupping?

TCM FIre Cupping

Cupping is a treatment method used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that dates back to the early fourth century. It involves the use of glass cups or globes to initiate a healing response from the body. Licensed Acupuncturists commonly use cupping as an adjunct therapy to acupuncture. Like other treatment modalities of TCM, cupping stimulates the flow of qi and blood. It can also warm the meridians, remove obstructions, and open the pores to help draw toxins out of the body.

How is cupping performed?

In a typical cupping session a cotton ball is soaked in alcohol, placed in forceps, and then lit on fire. The burning cotton ball is then quickly inserted in and out of an inverted glass cup. Doing so warms the cup and removes oxygen to create a vacuum that enables the cup to stay in place.

TCM Fire Cupping

The cup is then quickly placed on the targeted area of the body and the underlying tissue is pulled into the cup. Multiple cups of various sizes may be used and left in place for several minutes at a time as in stationary cupping or removed and reapplied quickly as in flashing cupping. Running or sliding cupping may also be performed by applying oil to the skin first that allows the cups to slide easily. The techniques used in a cupping session are determined by the patient's condition and the desired therapeutic effect.

Cupping may cause temporary discoloration of the skin, usually in the shape of the cups. This discoloration varies in color from pink to purple and typically disappears within 7-10 days of treatment. The color of the cupping marks can reveal the condition of your qi and blood, the presence of dampness, or the presence of toxin accumulation in the body. Some patients may also feel mild soreness after cupping that is also temporary.

What can cupping treat?

Cupping is mainly used to treat respiratory conditions such as cough and asthma, gastrointestinal disorders, and certain types of pain. It can also relieve muscle tension and stiffness, decrease stress and anxiety, clear congestion from the common cold, and improve sleep.

While cupping is generally a safe and effective treatment for various conditions, it is not suitable for everyone. Cupping is not recommended for those who are physically weak, have skin lesions or broken skin, are taking blood thinners, or are pregnant. A licensed practitioner can tell you whether or not cupping is right for you and your condition.

Thanks for stopping by. Be sure to come back to learn more about TCM! 😊

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