Cupping Therapy in the News

Everyone now knows that all time Olympic Gold medal winner Michael Phelps is a great fan of Chinese cupping therapy, and some folk will remember the hub-bub when movie star Gwyneth Paltrow appeared at an a film premiere in an evening gown with marks left by cupping.

What is cupping though?

Cupping Therapy has been used in ancient Chinese medicine for thousands of years as a way to treat pain, muscle stiffness, arthritis,  and even respiratory issues like asthma and common cold.

It is a very effective treatment for chronic and acute back and shoulder pain.  

Cupping pulls blood to an area so it improves circulation and loosen up muscles and joints.  It has anti-inflammatory and detoxifying effects which makes it great for training and recovery. It is even used for PMS and menstrual pain. 

Cupping therapy is a safe and effective treatment modality for myo-fascial and trigger point pain that works very well as a stand alone treatment, but works even better when combined with Dry Needling and Classical Chinese Acupuncture.

Cupping therapy, which we just refer to as cupping in Chinese Medicine, has a very long history that extends from ancient Egypt and China through the Arab world, the Mediterranean basin, the Balkans, and all of the Slavic lands.

In Chinese Medicine and Europe cupping has been a home remedy for colds, cough, bronchitis, and asthma, administered by mothers and grandmothers traditionally. 

It also has a history of being used for draining pus and blood from infections and pustules, and also for extracting venom from poisonous insect bites.

The cupping that I have been talking about so far is what can be called Dry Cupping, or Stationary Cups. Dry cupping involves creating suction either with a flame produced vacuum, or in modern times with a hand held suction device, that drains air out of the cup creating a vacuum that pulls the skin away from the underlying fascia and muscle. 

This is the method that is used most often for relief of myofascial and muscular pain, and that was used on various athletes at the Rio Olympics recently from USA to china.

Sliding cups can be used to affect larger areas of tissue, along with oils and liniments that have a muscle relaxing and counter-irritant effect. Sliding cupping does not leave the giant purple "hickies" that stationary cups do, and more closely resembles a deep tissue massage technique, as it pulls the skin away from the underlying fascial adhesions. 

I have been using cupping for treatment of myo-fascial and trigger point pain since graduating acupuncture school in 1992. 

What is interesting is that while some of the areas that are cupped are left with red or dark purple bruises, not all of the locations are. It seems that the tighter the muscle the more likely it is to bruise. Why this is, is open to conjecture. 

Web MD guide to cupping therapy

Copyright Eyton J. Shalom, M.S., L.Ac. San Diego, CA All Rights Reserved, Use With Permission Ayurveda, Acupuncture, and Chinese Medicine in San Diego